Monday, June 30, 2008

Equus: The Outing of Margaret Falk

Lynn Spencer, author of a non-fiction book examining America's air defense and flight control response to the disaster of September 11th, 2001, Touching History, which was recently released, acknowledges her indebtedness to a score or more names for help in writing the book, including assistance from four fellow authors--one of whom, Rick Newmann, co-wrote a second history of the events of 9-11, Firefight, which was also just recently released. I began to question why authors would share help with the production of competing publishers and I wondered who the other three names were.

I Googled a first because of its pretentious construction, J. Carson Black, and quickly realized the name was a pseudonym for a Tucson-area writer named Margaret Falk. Why, for Heaven's sakes, I wondered, does the author of a critically important examination of the events of 9-11 thank a pseudonym? Not only does Spencer pay credit to a pseudonymous writer, but it is to one who specializes in a sub-genre of mystery and suspense writing known as "police procedural," where a focus on the technical minutia and believable details that create an authentic crime scene background is placed.

That J. Carson Black is the pseudonym of Margaret Falk is not exactly a state secret. Put both names in parentheses into Google and 20 hits return. In a handful of references, including a Tuscon Weekly book review, the pen name is established as that of Falk.

The web site for "J.Carson Black," is deeply offensive to my sensibilities, starting with the home page graphic, where Ms. Black appears to be wearing the Muslim hajib across her face, but upon closer inspection, turns out to have a graphic train track, stockade fence, or perhaps a segment of the Appian Way twisting obscurely as a veil.

In her dumbed down persona, Black's blog postings are nothing short of ridiculous. In one, where she seems deathly afraid that Mitch McConnell is a secret communist, she says:
"That’s the oldest ploy in the book. He’s just saying it to muddy the waters and avert suspicion, the way Barack Hussein Obama went to a Christian church for twenty years to throw us all off track.

Be afraid. Be very afraid. Be terrified, in fact. If ever there was a time to devolve into an abject, babbling, terrorized lump of blithering alarm, this is it!

The Red Scare isn’t just a saying anymore. It’s real. And it’s coming for us!"
I have often been called paranoid, delusional, and an alarmist, and I am loath to cast the same aspersions onto another, but here I must and do. At least, I don't expect to base a moneymaking franchise out of my shortcomings, so add avarice to her list.

On edit: May 12, 2009, Somebody, I'm not sure if it was Margaret, Lynn, J. Carson, Maggie Kao, (her non-publicist at NAL/Signet, part of The Penguin Group,) or maybe the law firm of Whipple, Loamy & Foo, has objected to three images in this blog, content which I downloaded off of the web sites linked to here, and then reupped. As a fellow writer I felt sure she would have looked favorably on any publicity or traffic I might send her way, but, alas---this is why we are told never to assume!

Blogger very nicely tells me that:
The notice that we received from Margaret Falk, with any personally identifying information removed, will be posted online by a service called Chilling Effects at
Either her name or this blog's IP address will locate her complaint there.

Only one of the three images is essential to my message, and I should be within my artistic rights to paint a "word picture" of the censored photograph in lieu of it, in order to convey the meaning as intended:
It is a period black-and-white image of Ms. Falk's father, we are told, standing in an exterior scene in a paddock next to a barn, but posed in such a way that he is mostly hidden behind an already saddled horse. They both look directly at the camera. The relationship between the two is odd, as well as are their expressions...
I don't think I'd be at fault if I directed my audience to the former cached version of this blog, if they are curious. No one is responsible for this ether detritus shadowing our online existence---and I'm not sidestepping any rule by pointing it out. (Shhh. Click here.) We continue on now with our story...

Some of the references to Margaret Falk/J. Carson Black are exceedingly strange. One, in a mystery-demimonde site, WhoDunnit, seems fraught with subtle directional clues:
"Ms. Black wrote from an early age, and her first attempt at a novel was a horror story, which evidently got sort of lost... J. Carson Black grew up with a pony and trips into the desert, then traveled around the country with her family."
"Trips into the desert?" Did Ms. Falk have a pony as a girl? The distinguishability or overlap between the real author and the imagined persona seems meant to be perceived as a spiral-twist.

A reference which appears more than once seems of special significance. It is that of a competing New York Times bestselling author, Michael Prescott, a self-described, "conservative (and one-time libertarian)," whose AboutMe page lists his interests as,
"Fiction, Shakespeare, philosophy, evolution, Intelligent Design, origin of life, critiques of Ayn Rand, critiques of Objectivism, spirituality, religion, parapsychology, afterlife studies, anthropic principle in cosmology, synchronicities, crime history, thrillers, historical novels, Joss Whedon, writing, moral intuitionism, ethics, meta-ethics, dualism, critiques of philosophical materialism, tennis, cellular biology, quantum physics, historical Jesus, the Bible."
That should keep him busy. Mr. Prescott, who previously wrote suspense novels under the pen name Brian Harper, says he's "written nine thrillers, the most recent of which is Final Sins." Somehow, combining conservative ideology with titles like Final Sins, leaves me cold, although otherwise, Mr. Prescott sounds fascinating--especially given he has a degree in Film Studies. Is he sure he really wouldn't rather direct?

When I was 17 years old and should have been in school, I drove from Tennessee to New York City, put my car in a garage, took a room at the Upper West Side YMCA, and went to a week of theater and musicals. One particularly memorable night I saw Peter Shaffer's Equus. Going to the theater alone, and then not sharing my impressions with anybody, I didn't form, can't imagine, let alone articulate in words, the effect the experience had on my consciousness. It was about adults who cared about a mad boy, remember? Can one even experience catharsis at 17? Had I already experienced the necessary predicate for one?

But I can say one thing: where the first row meets the thrust of the stage created spaces to either side that held a row of three seats, then two, then one, and I sat in that one seat, all alone, with my knees held up tight against the stage, and something too powerful for words gripped me. And that's why I called this piece Equus.

I must Google Peter Shaffer. I seem to remember something about his being a company man.


  1. Nice work and great story. Falk is an impressive find.

  2. That was back in the day when I was working at a neighborhood bar part-time to make ends meet. Some customer had commented on my dark hair and how they wished they had dark hair like mine and I told them they could. "It's Nice & Easy 118" and one of the regulars started calling me "118" which looking back in retrospect, I am certainly glad I wasn't called "Nice & Easy"!
    Then there's my summer hair. I'm a firm believer that, for myself, if I have short hair, it must be blond.fences quotes