In Jacqueline Banerjee's introduction to Neo-Victorianism, she quoted the following disclaimer that appears on the copyright page of Paul Thomas Murphy's Shooting Victoria: Madness, Mayhem and the Modernisation of the Monarchy (2012): “This is a work of fiction. All characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.” She then continues, “Yet it reads entirely like history, with well over a hundred pages of perfectly authentic citations and seventeen of Works Cited (including archival sources). More fact than fiction, it has been received as such by reviewers.”
Mr. Murphy thereupon wrote to us thank us both for Dr. Banerjee's review and
for bringing that curious disclaimer on the copyright page to my attention: “This is a work of fiction. All characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either projects of the author’s imagination or were used fictitiously.” That disclaimer—which did not appear at all in the original North American publication of the book, and was erroneously slipped into the UK publication by a careless or overworked or perhaps generically-challenged copywriter—seems to have escaped anyone’s notice, Dr. Banerjee, until you noticed it—and drew the obvious conclusion.
I do want to assure you, however, that it’s that disclaimer itself that is fiction, and not the book. Every quotation in the book is presented verbatim from a source, and every action can be (and is!) traced to a specific factual account of the attempts. It is true that Shooting Victoria has a narrative structure—that it might read like a novel, as a number of kind reviewers have pointed out—but I cannot honestly claim to have made up any of it.
I’ve contacted the folks at my British publisher, Head of Zeus, about this; they’ve assured me that they will remove that disclaimer from the next edition of Shooting Victoria. Please accept my apologies for the confusion caused by this disclaimer which I must now vigorously disclaim.
Thanks, Paul, for reminding us of the ways publishers sometimes add things to books that their authors do not want. Thanks, too, for emphasizing the complex relations between historical fact and fiction — especially Victorian history and Neo-Victorian fiction.
Murphy, Paul Thomas. Shooting Victoria: Madness, Mayhem and the Modernisation of the Monarchy. London: Head of Zeus, Ltd., 2012.
Last modified 12 September 2013