Based on A True Fantasy

Before a showing of “Bohemian Rhapsody” I viewed a movie trailer that began with the advisory, “Based on A True Fantasy.”

Readers of my new novel Hustle the East ask if I am Benny Bendit, the American teacher, or Jack Gaines, the American antihero. I am neither.

Like both Benny and Jack Gaines, I taught in Laos during the novel’s central timeframe, 1973-1976. However this coincidence does not implicate me in the various nefarious activities of my fictional characters. I am no more Benny or Jack Gaines than I am Freddy Mercury. I did not personally experience the adventures and romance of Hustle the East any more than I toured with the band Queen.

Fiction is fantasy.

One might imagine that the creators of Mary Poppins, Miss Doubtfire and Peter Pan’s Nana had nannies, or knew of nannies in the neighborhood. Obviously, the household helpers who inspired the movie characters did not do the fantastic things the characters in the movie did.

Hustle the East introduces readers to more than two dozen fictional characters. Ten are Americans, 16 are Laotians, one is French, one British, and one Filipino. All of them are products of the author’s imagination, although it’s safe to say some resemble individuals I read about, heard about, or fictionalized from a real person who held a similar position.

I rejected the publisher’s Standard Disclosure Statement that attests: “Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.” I replaced it with this one: “This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner.”

It’s no coincidence that the story is populated with some real people because the fictional sweep of Hustle the East takes place against a backdrop of actual historical events. The novel includes historical mentions or cameo appearances related to a score of historical figures, including presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon, presidential adviser Henry Kissinger, two U.S. ambassadors to Laos, and a dozen Laotian statesmen and military leaders. Quotes attributed to them are either actual statements or the author’s idea of what they might have said had they been put in the fictional situation the author put them in.

Enjoy the story. You could say it’s based on a true fantasy.

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