"Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment" ran Dorothy Parker's composition for her tombstone. Likewise the diverting narrative that is this post.
Yesterday morning I got a telephone call from a bewildered gentleman at Abingdon Police Station saying he had received a complaint from a Mr Neil Clark. Mr Clark (pictured) is the author of such essays as "Milosevic, Prisoner of Conscience" and (regarding the Iraqi interpreters in fear of their lives) "Keep these Quislings Out". He is also an imaginative theorist of global conspiracy.
But as well as being a fool and a fanatic, Mr Clark is a fabulist, a fantasist, a faker and a fabricator. (For economy's sake, I confine myself to the letter F.) Readers may recall that I once exposed Mr Clark's reliance, in a published article (irrelevantly, a review of a book by me), on a disreputable source that it turned out he had not represented accurately to the relevant editor. The source was a right-wing Srebrenica-denial organisation in the US, whose name Mr Clark had apparently confused with that of the scholarly and impartial International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. As my observation was true, and was easily demonstrated with reference to Mr Clark's own emails to the editor, I was immovable when Mr Clark mounted an impressively inept attempt at libel action. In order to stress the weight of his claim, Mr Clark additionally adopted the imprudent course of lying directly, and in an attributed quotation, to a Guardian journalist, Dominic Timms, and then manufacturing a variety of online female identities in order to remove reference to the inevitable outcome of his complaint. I demur from telling this undignified story further, and revert to the present.
I learned from my interlocutor at Abingdon Police Station that Mr Clark was upset about disobliging references to him on the World Wide Web. Mr Clark had meticulously assembled a file of these, to which presumably this post will be added. Among the cases Mr Clark had collated was an observation from me that, by dint of being unable to read such specialised material as France's leading daily newspaper, he had contributed an erroneous comment to The Guardian last summer concerning the position of the French Foreign Minister on the Iraq War. Mr Clark maintained – as this example surely demonstrates - that he was the victim of a campaign of criminal harassment orchestrated by me.
I sympathised with my interlocutor on his predicament. I explained that Mr Clark had once had an unfortunate experience with the English legal system, in which he had wasted court time at what would have been his expense if I'd resolved to issue a claim against him for costs. Possibly for this reason, after a sobering encounter with a leading libel lawyer whom I had retained for my defence and who rambunctiously explained to Mr Clark that his conduct represented an abuse of the legal process, he now prefers to waste police time at public expense. My interlocutor ventured wearily that the matter merited no time of his, but it appeared from my business address that I enjoyed a measure of professional success greater than that of a man in Botley; could I not therefore just abstain from interest in Clark's pronouncements? I naturally resolved to do all in my power to make life easier for the Abingdon constabulary than it has been in the very recent past.
And, Reader, I am a man of my word.