Powerpoints #21: On Contradictions, Here Preston Contradicts Preston

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The image above shows James Frey, Stephen Glass and Clifford Irving; all three are writers caught playing fast-and-loose with the truth.

This is the second in my Powerpoint series questioning whether Doug Preston also play fast-and-loose with the truth.

In the first set of questions that we posed to fiction thriller writer (and now, self-described “point-of-view journalist”, whatever that euphemism means) Douglas Preston a few days ago, we asked him about his and Spezi’s Afterword to their book The Monster of Florence.

It appears to be full of errors and insinuations in linking the MoF to the Meredith Kercher murder case.

A book that is based on a “True Story” should not be found to be derelict in presenting errors or fiction as true fact, neither at its end, nor in its beginning, nor in any other point between.

In this, the second question that we pose to Preston (and Spezi, if he’s available for replies), we go to the start of the story, where Preston recalls how he met Spezi, in the smoky haze of a backroom of the Caffè Ricchi in the centre of Florence and first learned of the existence of the monster or did he? 

The problem is that in equally emphatic terms, you can also hear Preston on an NBC Dateline documentary describe how a few months earlier (I calculate) than the Caffè Ricchi tête-a-tête, he describes hearing about the Monster of Florence for the first time from his neighbours in the town he lived in in Italy.

And this, in an interview with Stone Philips of NBC with a camera crew and their equipment on-site in Italy in front of his old rented house. At a time when Preston was already telling the rest of the world that he couldn’t return to Italy, banned by Mignini! In my opinion, things can’t get much more cynical than that.

The contrast between Preston’s two clear, explicit and totally mutually-exclusive descriptions of how he learned of the Monster of Florence may seem like a trivial point, but it really is not.

Every writer knows that the key factor at the start of a book is engaging and maintaining the reader’s interest so that it lasts to the very end. A fiction writer is free to use whatever mechanism he may need to make that engagement. However, authors who describe their tale as a “True Story"as do Preston and Spezi should realize that reader trust is - poof! - lost if you load the start of the True Story with something that isn’t so.

Recent history has seen a number of writers who push and cross the limit of the Truth and rush headstrong into Truthiness, Mistruth, or Lies, peddling stories that attract our interest and are human, daring .... yet end up being exposed as blends of truths and half-truths.  Together with insinuations and a lot of out-and-out fibs:

  • Clifford Irving went to jail for his unauthorised and totally false “autobiography” of Howard Hughes, see the Richard Gere movie poster below..
  • The New Republic magazine fired Stephen Glass after determining that at least 27 of 41 stories written by Glass for the magazine contained fabricated material.
  • James Frey’s publisher has had to reimburse those purchasers of “A Million Little Pieces” who bought it believing it true (it was commercialized as such).

Where will Spezi and Preston take us with The Monster of Florence? All it takes is for one reader to question:

“Could this really have happened as they are making us think it happened? Why when I read the Italian version of the book do I understand something completely different? Why in Italy is Il Mostro considered the better, much more accurate book?”

From there the truth in the story starts to unravel. As we already see in the Powerpoint presentations, the start and end of the English-langage MoF book don’t exactly encourage us to take any of its contents at face value.

Now that the Meredith Kercher murder case approaches its final appeal, it looks like Preston and Spezi are moving to develop some sort of MoF sequel that could be titled The Monster of Florence: The New Generation starring Amanda Knox and of course Preston and Spezi. And including fresh new “True Stories” by the pair. 

Personally, I feel that they could spare both us and Amanda’s cause their “truth”. Amanda and her legal team have more than enough to think about right now, with the Supreme Court appeal and the mess the Raffaele Sollecito book dams them in.

I believe that the shrillness of Preston’s and Spezi’s tales of “truth” will increase its pitch as we approach the March final appeal of Knox and Raffaele Sollecito as suspects in the murder of Meredith (Knox has already been found guilty of one crime and has served her prison sentence for falsely accusing Patrick Lumumba of murdering Meredith). 

This is going to be a very tough appeal - I urge readers to take a look at the English translation of Prosecutor Galati’s request for the appeal. It is surprising in its strength and balance. The Knox and Sollecito legal teams must be busy (will either defendant dare to be in Italy at that time?) and they know they are going to have a rough time of it in March.

How nice for all concerned if all the fictions now drop dead.

Posted by Kermit on 10/25/21 at 10:11 PM in

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Another excellent exposé, Kermit. Keep them coming!

And let’s not forget Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools, who also played fast and loose with the facts - and was very effectively nailed by John Krakauer in the book: Three Cups of Deceit: How Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero, Lost His Way.


It’s now very easy to see the same fate awating Doug Preston.

Posted by Fly By Night on 10/26/12 at 07:06 PM | #

FBN, there unfortunately a number examples of writers and journalists who for one reason or another, but mostly to make a fast buck, have made up “true stories” and peddled the made-up material to a public who is trusting enough to believe them.

I hope that in the case of Meredith’s murder, the public at the end of the day will be fully aware of the facts of the case vs. the whitewash that the Hangers-On and Carpetbaggers sell as their “truth”.

BTW John Krakauer is a great writer. I loved “Into Thin Air” ... maybe Preston could take not only some writing lessons from Krakauer, but also some lessons into owning up to and correcting errors, as Krakauer did regarding what he initially thought was the fate of some of his Everest climbing companions in the first (magazine) version of Into Thin Air.

Posted by Kermit on 10/27/12 at 09:56 AM | #

My goodness, Fly By Night.

Greg Mortenson was invited by the IBO as a Keynote Speaker at the Asia Pacific IB Conference here in Singapore a couple of years ago. 

He was highly acclaimed and came with his books which many people bought and he signed.  His speech came across as highly credible - and laudable. 

It just goes to show how one can be taken in by a credibly presented story.  And what reason would anyone, not knowing or suspecting any different, have to seek out an alternative story. 

I haven’t read or even heard - until now - of ‘Three Cups of Deceit’.  Must look it up.

Honestly, you need eyes in the back of your head these days 😉!!

Posted by thundering on 10/27/12 at 10:03 AM | #

Hear hear, Kermit.

Let the words of Truth ring out and may we all not shy away from speaking them that there may ultimately be justice for Meredith. 

Excellent posts!  Thank you.

Posted by thundering on 10/27/12 at 10:06 AM | #

Excellent Kermit as per. It is starling to view the many errors/lies in there afterword section. I just can’t see how he can even attempt to refute them.

It would be interesting reding if he did decide to respond, I don’t think we will be hearing from DP any time soon!!

Hope the FOA squad are reading,

Posted by Jeffski1 on 10/27/12 at 05:04 PM | #

Kermit, thank you for exposing the exaggerations of Preston. The Hurricane brand Winnebago with Preston at the wheel and Spezi pumping up the flat tire is hilarious.

I think Preston linked up with Spezi because he wanted to move into the truth and leave fiction behind. He admired Spezi’s hardnosed style and more rigorous discipline. Spezi was a crime reporter who had journalistic standards to uphold. His job requires laborious research and scary legal accountability while Preston had been wheeling freely in fiction and fantasy and was perhaps tired of it.

Preston really should stick to fiction and fantasy and not apologize for it, he is talented in that department but he has no skill with the narrow road of journalistic objectivity or precise truth. Kermit has uncovered his waywardness with the truth. It’s as if Kermit’s fact-checking removed a veil off a wild impressionist painting that purports to be a lifelike portrait.

Speaking of artwork, the cover on the MOF book bothers me. It wasn’t just the nudity which I didn’t want children’s eyes to see in my house. The reason occurred to me this morning as I read Kermit’s 24 pages of PowerPoint where he shreds Preston’s loaded insinuations (Preston should write for The National Enquirer or The Examiner).

Suddenly it hit me why I hated the book cover. It shows a marble statue of a man’s naked behind and a woman’s nude breasts. It reminds me of the backside of Amanda’s stained glass “self-portrait” she drew in prison showing her naked bohunkus, what gall. Also the exposed breast of the female victim, the lovely Meredith, was revealed only when her bra was cut off by murderers. This act was done to humiliate her and to tell a lie about the crime. So both these images in the marble statue remind me of the killers’ insolence, treachery and deception as well as aggressive wrong action.

Preston’s cover equates his and Spezi’s book with some fabulous piece of Italian sculpture, that’s a laugh. A statue is not real, either, it’s stone cold. In this case the statue is not even beautiful to me, it shows distress. The only good part of the book cover is that the female victim is high and lifted up like Meredith, despite what was done to her.

When I went to England in January 2012 I put all my books on the case in a brown paper grocery bag:

+Darkness Descending, by Russell & Johnson
+Death in Perugia, by John Follain
+Angel Face, by Barbie Nadeau
+Murder in Italy, by Candace Dempsey
+The Study Abroad Murder, by Will Savive

The brown bag was covered by a plastic bag with a smiley face from our local Chinese eatery. I taped the bag tightly to block dust and keep the books together. It stays on my white bookshelf.

But as for Preston’s book, I got so mad at its inaccuracies I tore the cover off with my own two hands and ripped the book to pieces, threw it away.

Kermit, thanks for your careful attention to detail and analysis of the case record. You prove Preston’s “true story” is like Amanda’s, full of discrepancies.

Posted by Hopeful on 10/28/12 at 11:51 PM | #

Hi Kermit,

Thanks for the second part of this excellent series. Doug Preston’s dishonesty has been exposed for everyone to see. As predicted, his silence has been deafening. I don’t think he’ll be venturing out of his shack for a while.

Doug Preston was instrumental in propagating the FOA’s fantasy version of events. It’s encouraging to see that the American Psychologist has made corrections to Saul Kassim’s description of the case - which is essentially the FOA’s fantasy version of events:

In the article “Why Confessions Trump Innocence,” by Saul M. Kassin (American Psychologist , Vol. 67, No. 6, pp. 431–445, this issue; published Online First April 30, 2012), minor corrections should be made in the description of the Amanda Knox case. The author thanks those whose feedback prompted these changes: (1) On p. 431, paragraph 1, line 5, “the only one” should be deleted; (2) on p. 431, paragraph 2, lines 10–12, “She was told, falsely, that Sollecito, her boyfriend, disavowed her alibi and that physical evidence placed her at the scene” should read “She was told that Sollecito, her boyfriend, disavowed her alibi, which he later retracted, and that physical evidence placed her at the scene, which was not true”; (3) on p. 433, paragraph 2, lines 3–4, “her English roommates left Perugia;” should be deleted; (4) on p. 436, paragraph 3, lines 8–10, “Two weeks later, the rapist whose DNA was found in sperm and other biological matter at the crime scene was apprehended” should read “Two weeks later, Rudy Guede, who was convicted of murdering Meredith Kercher and whose DNA was found inside her body and throughout the crime scene, was apprehended”; (5) on p. 436, paragraph 3, line 13, “the rapist” should be replaced with “Guede”; (6) on p. 441, paragraph 3, line 13, “Knox’s British roommates” should be replaced with “Kercher’s friends.”

Posted by The Machine on 10/29/12 at 05:27 PM | #

It is not the individual words, nor the isolated sentences that make a novel exciting. It is the slow and carefully themed style that leads the reader to a pre-decided conclusion that makes a good novel. The author enters the brain of the reader and takes over: the reader is gently guided to the climax. Afterwards, everything is forgotten except that the climax was good! A good blend of fact and fiction is the key. Make it spicy! Let the hormones do their job well.

But what about Dr Kassin? Has he also turned into a novelist?

Unfortunately I have to pay to read his article; I am seriously not interested to pay for just to read somebody’s opinion.

Posted by chami on 10/29/12 at 07:16 PM | #

Hopeful said: “the cover on the MOF book bothers me ... Preston’s cover equates his and Spezi’s book with some fabulous piece of Italian sculpture, that’s a laugh ... In this case the statue is not even beautiful to me, it shows distress.”

Thanks Hopeful for your comment about the cover of Preston’s book. Art can be very powerful, and this is the case of Giambologna’s statue The Rape of the Sabine Women portrayed on Preston and Spezi’s book. I see on reading about it (on
http://giambologna.comune.fi.it/scheda.php?Id=8&lang=eng) that it wasn’t initially meant to depict that legendary story of Romans abducting women of the Sabine tribe, but rather it was simply a young man ripping away a woman from another man’s grasp. The art in the sculpture does exude the violence it portrays, and that is what you perceived as a viewer.

In Preston’s and Spezi’s English version of The Monster of Florence, the use of this image is explained as if it were almost a touristy reference to violent art to be found in Florence. They say: “The Piazza della Signoria, the main square, contains an open- air display of Roman and Renaissance sculpture exhibiting some of the most famous statues in Florence. It is a gallery of horrors, a public exhibition of killing, rape, and mutilation unmatched in any city in the world. Heading the show is the famous bronze sculpture by Cellini of Perseus triumphantly holding up the severed head of Medusa like a jihadist on a website video, blood pouring from her neck, her decapitated body sprawled under his feet. Behind Perseus stand other statues depicting famous legendary scenes of murder, violence, and mayhem—among them the sculpture that graces the cover of this book, The Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna. Inside Florence’s encircling walls and on the gibbets outside were committed the most refined and the most savage of crimes, from delicate poisonings to brutal public dismemberments, tortures, and burnings.”

There’s a subtle difference in Spezi’s and Preston’s Italian version, because here rather than a third-person description of violent art to be found in this ancient city, Preston is describing to Spezi, the novel that he had planned to write in Florence:

Rough translation, quoting Preston in Dolci Colline di Sangue: “I have in mind a thriller set in this city,” Douglas Preston said to the reporter (Spezi). “It involves a missing Masaccio (painting), dead bodies with no eyes because seeing it is dangerous, an American art scholar who is looking for it ... Florence seems an ideal backdrop. Its aristocratic palaces that are gray, almost black, harsh, full of edges, closed on the street side, keep you away; they seem more like fortresses, or even prisons ... The black bridges are like umbrellas over the yellow Arno, the river dragging broken trees and animal carcasses that crash into the pylons designed by Ammannati ... The sublime goes hand in hand with the horrific. The collection of sculptures in the Loggia dei Lanzi, for me, remains one of the most outstanding galleries of horrors, an extraordinary display of violence, murder and mutilation. The Rape of the Sabine Women, ethnic rape! The Perseus showing the severed head of Medusa like a Jihad fanatic showing a hostage’s head, the contempt of a corpse!”
So, we see that the “ethnic rape” protrayed in The Rape of the Sabine Women was already on Preston’s mind before he had the MoF book in mind. And his novel project’s violent artwork ended up on not his initially intended novel, but ... a different novel: The Monster of Florence.

Posted by Kermit on 10/29/12 at 11:11 PM | #

@ Hopeful
Wasn´t Dempsey´s book as bad ? She seemed to think Meredith´s death was no more than a piece of entertainment, good stuff for a novel .

Posted by aethelred23 on 10/30/12 at 12:24 AM | #

Stephanie Kercher will been given the editor’s choice prize for Cosmopolitan’s Ultimate Women of the Year Awards this evening. I’ve just thanked the Louise Court, the editor of Cosmopolitan, on Twitter for choosing Stephanie. I hope others will do the same.


Posted by The Machine on 10/30/12 at 10:08 PM | #

Congratulations Stephanie Kercher!

“Meredith Kercher’s Sister Stephanie Honoured”


Posted by True North on 10/31/12 at 02:21 AM | #
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