Others got in touch to ask if my current boyfriend was feeling nervous. “I hope you stay one step ahead of the false accusations,” Julia Gillard commiserated via email. “If you don’t, I will bake a file in a cake for you. Actually, the way I bake, you will be able to use the cake as a file!”
I even got a message from Stephen Fry’s 90-year-old mum, Marianne. “Kind Kathy could not be a killer – she only cracks killer jokes, bless her.”
Speaking of jokes, Jane Turner rang to tell me a cracker about a woman at the morgue with her deceased husband. When asked about the cause of death, the widow replied: “Poisoning.” “But,” mourners pointed out, “his body is covered in bruises.” “Yes,” she explained. “He wouldn’t take it!”
As the humorous momentum built, my lovely first husband, Kim Williams, got in touch with reassuring words. “Last time I looked, I was still kicking hard!” My lovely second husband, Geoffrey Robertson, also confirmed that he was still vertical.
David Williamson wrote to corroborate recent sightings. “Kathy, Kim and Geoffrey are indeed still with us, but I’ve heard you’ve got dozens of thank you messages from grateful wives who’ve used your plot line to advantage.”
But this amusing case of mistaken non-entity took a more serious turn when it made its way into social media and newsprint. A letter to Washington’s Courier Herald, published on June 9 and titled “Kathy Lette’s Conviction”, goes on to talk about the author whose book about murdering husbands turned out to be fact, not fiction.
Now, every woman wants to be wanted – just not by Interpol. Yes, my novel does have a plot to die for, but it’s not a DIY manual. So, the question is: do I sue, or let rumours persist that I’m a murderess?
My Sydney libel lawyer, Patrick George, urged me to insist that the Courier Herald remove the falsehood. “Defamation is a strict liability, so whoever published this has certainly defamed you – mistaken identity is no excuse,” he told me. “It can be repeated and spread and before you know it, the next time you meet the Queen she’ll ask when they let you out of prison.”
Well, I’m sure that’s a question the royals are inclined to ask all Australians. Besides which, there could be an upside. Rumours that I’m a murderess would definitely encourage book critics to stay on my good side.
But what finally persuaded me to seek an apology (which I’m still waiting for, by the way), is the fact that Nancy’s essay is just so badly written. She murders the English language. And I don’t want to take the rap for that.
What finally persuaded me to seek an apology, is the fact that Nancy’s essay is just so badly written. She murders the English language.
Plus, her murderous modus operandi is so unimaginative. Homicide is not easy, but shooting him with a traceable gun? Where’s the suspense in that? So, how to do it? Local hardware stores just don’t stock female-friendly Shallow Grave shovels. Can’t live with him, can’t cut him up with a chainsaw and dispose of his body in black bin liners because the neighbours might notice.
When the downtrodden wife in my novel is abandoned by her philandering hubby, she’s suddenly single and trying to master her own DIY – as in which kitchen gadget can be used as a deadly weapon and the deed made to look like an accident. A domestic goddess, she knows the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach – with an upwards thrust of a carving knife.
“The interesting thing about looking at a knife aimed at your philandering husband’s groin is how small the tip of the blade is, and yet what a huge hole it would make in his future reproductive plans,” she says. You’ll have to read the novel to discover her ingenious method of husband removal.
But this is just a fictional flight of fancy. On balance, I think it best not to encourage readers to kill their spouses. Whatever a wife does to him might originally be reported as an accident, but not after those highly advanced forensic tests prove that his heart was gouged out of his body by his bride’s nail file.
I suggest angry wives forgo murder and opt for some creative revenge. If a hubby needs his comeuppance, secrete Nair hair remover in his shampoo bottle. Turn up his bathroom scales by five kilos – the best revenge on a weight-conscious egotist. Replace his KY Jelly with a tube of superglue – that will fix him, literally. Encourage your kids to leave their descant recorders at their father’s place, so that they have something to play when next staying over. Then let them graduate to bagpipes.
Or perhaps just give him a copy of my novel How to Kill Your Husband and tell him how the author was mistaken for a real murderess. With any luck, he’ll die laughing.
Since my murderous mix-up, friends have been getting in touch to tell me their own doppelganger dramas. In 2015, Bruce Beresford, who directed the movie of my first book, Puberty Blues, seemed to be starring in one of his own thrillers when he found himself mistaken for US TV producer Bruce Beresford-Redman, who was convicted of murdering his wife in Mexico.
Anecdotes are also pouring in. Comic legend Peter Sellers, though notoriously difficult to work with, also had a mischievous streak. While shooting Casino Royale in 1967, the chair of Columbia Pictures, Leo Jaffe, mistook him for his co-star, newcomer Woody Allen. Sellers, a talented mimic, played along, which must have been quite funny, until Jaffe started complaining vociferously about Sellers, including a bitter regret in ever casting the British prima donna. Peter Sellers promptly walked off the set and left the country.
But my favourite case of mistaken identity involves Spanish police officers who were alerted to the presence of an escaped gorilla outside a zoo in 2014. The police sent a veterinarian to sedate the gorilla. Inspecting the fallen body, they then realised they’d shot a tranquilliser dart into a zoo worker dressed in a gorilla costume. The zoo admitted that one of its workers was accidentally shot during a gorilla escape drill, but claimed he wasn’t in costume.
The jury’s out. But as far as I know, the gorilla hasn’t sued.
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