karlapic10

FINDING KARLA… AGAIN

Somehow Paula Todd (see “Finding Karla: Fact or Fiction or Both Pt. 1, 2,3) has been elevated by legacy media to a Level One expert on Karla Homolka (a.k.a. Emile Bordelais.)

Since I have now posted thrice critical remarks about Ms. Todd’s anemic effort why am I up on the high horse again?

Because, information, no matter how useless or irrelevant, is like a virus. It’s everywhere and tends to seep to the surface like rocks in a spring field. Like everyone else, I’m overloaded and bemused.

I receive Google Alerts whenever “Karla Homolka” appears anywhere in cyberspace or the press and, a week or two ago, I received a blazing notice from the hinterland that Ms. Todd was going to grace Midland with her presence and be quizzed on her groundbreaking book “Finding Karla.”

The “announcement” was in the Midland weekly newspaper.

Midland is a wealthy little town located on Georgian Bay in Simcoe County, Ontario, Canada. It sits on the south end of Georgian Bay’s 30,000 Islands and is the economic center of the region, meaning everyone for a hundred miles has $$.

nwspclipping.paulatodd.2014.09

Weeklies are delivered up here in the Great White North by an operation called Metro News. I mention this because this blog is about law and disorder (not just about Karla and Paula Todd) and when talking about law and disorder I would be remiss were I not to mention the multi-millionaire owner of Metro News, Alex Petraitis, and his arrest a few years back for conspiring with the ex-husband of his mistress to kill his wife so (according to the Attorney General) he could continue being spanked while wearing diapers by said mistress (who was also practising dominatrix,) in peace.

Mr. Petraitis, a rather gregarious and amiable fellow, in his late sixties at the time, wisely retained my good friend and lawyer Edward L. (Eddie) Greenspan to defend him.

His trial was not only an unbelievable, even hilarious parade of depravity, perversity and incredulity, it was also protracted and mysterious and not to be missed by anyone who’s a fan of that sort of thing and/or a true crime buff. (Here is a link to a relatively comprehensive summary of the case from the National Post.)

I digress. Back to the “Midland Mirror” and Ms. Todd. When I read the following I just lost it: “Paula Todd, the investigative reporter who found convicted killer Karla Homolka living in the Caribbean, will appear at the Midland Cultural Center on Sept. 23 as the next guest in the “A Day in the Life” conversation series.” Slightly naive and behind the curve but that’s life in glorious summer enclaves like Midland.

KarlaFound

Again I digress: The blurb goes on: “Investigative reporter Paula Todd is used to asking the tough questions…”

What? Really?

If Ms. Todd is a purveyor of the “tough question,” why the hell didn’t she ask Karla just one when she was allegedly in Guadeloupe sitting right across from her in her living room for an hour?

Oh yeah, I remember now, she was too scared. Remember her pamphlet was suffused with silly sallies about how afraid she was of everything: flying all the way to Caribbean, the island of Guadeloupe because it is French speaking (in spite of the fact that Ms. Todd speaks fluent French), Karla herself, other islanders possibly in Karla’s thrall, like the police and prosecutors were way back when Karla’s was given this future where Ms. Todd finally “found” her.

Even if I did not know Ms. Todd, all this badly written nonsense would be unbelievable. I realize it’s petty but those who know anything about this story will understand why I couldn’t help myself.

Karla, who has lost considerable weight since I last talked to her in prison circa 2002, is a wisp of a girl (a phrase her lawyer George Walker frequently used to describe her when Karla was 20 – 30 lb. heavier, before she went to jail.

She is short, attractive, curvaceous, blonde and petit. On the other hand Ms. Todd is much taller and how shall I say, robust? Ms. Todd takes care of herself. Remember, I have actually spent time in close proximity with both women: Karla while she was in jail and much heavier but still curvaceous and Ms. Todd when she interviewed me (some say attacked – see some of the reader reviews of her e-essay online) a couple of times for the show she co-hosted for a decade on TVO, “Studio Two”. (Full disclosure here: I know Karla much better than I know Paula Todd.)

Karla is about as physically intimidating as a cashmere coat. She is also mild mannered and quite pleasant for the most part. On the other hand, Ms. Todd is much bigger, very self-assured to the point of deliberate intimidation, her perpetual posture particularly when dealing with topics and/or persons she disapproves of.

The newspaper’s squib goes on: “Todd is perhaps best known for tracking convicted killer Karla Homolka, the former wife of multiple murderer Paul Bernardo, to her new home in the Caribbean. The scoop was outlined in her book “Finding Karla…”

I guess the “best known” part is probably true now that everyone has forgotten Paula Todd was on TV virtually every night for two hours for a decade. As I said, I’ve been interviewed on a couple of occasions by Ms. Todd during the years I was writing the definitive books on the case and at least once that I remember while under indictment and I’m 6’4″ and at that time weighed in about 300 lb. Some say I’m intimidating. Paula Todd was not the slightest bit afraid of me. In fact, if I recall, I felt a bit concerned for my well-being.

Now for a few facts for those of us who still care about them: There was no scoop, it wasn’t a book (it was more like a bad essay – today they call it “long form journalism”) and Karla was not pulling a Whitey Bulger – she wasn’t hiding – ergo she could hardly have been “found.”

Anyone who cared to know already knew Karla had been wintering on the island of Guadeloupe, a French protectorate in the Caribbean, since approximately 2007 and spending the summers in Montreal. This was not news. No newspaper editors I spoke to and proposed a little “what’s she doing now?” squib prior to 2012 were the slightest bit interested – in fact, the very opposite. I was told on numerous occasions nobody cared. Karla was yesterday’s news.

Not to suggest that legacy media daily news editors know what they’re doing.

The Americans have never heard of Karla Homolka. Or the French. Or Japanese. Not even the Germans. And those few Canadians who have seem to not be particularly interested in the one thing I find mildly interesting – the fact that Karla moves freely back and forth, wherever she pleases, in the world, across the continent, across the seas, hither and yon.

It would have been interesting to know where else Karla has been or was planning to go but alas Ms. Todd thought that her quest sufficient in and of itself (whether actual or virtual) for such a small pamphlet which appears (since she did not ask any questions at all, let alone tough ones) to have aspired only to lining her and her “editor’s” (the peripatetic Derek Finkle’s) pockets and defraud the reading public.

And contrary to the repeated statements by our (i.e. Canadian) traditional media to the contrary, Ms. Todd is far from the first one, either in digital or physical form, to pull such a stunt and have some modest success with it.

Frankly, if Paula Todd really did go to Guadeloupe (See my earlier posts “Finding Karla: Fraud, Fiction or Both, 1,2,3″) and sat across from Karla for even a few minutes the end product is a bigger indictment of her weaknesses as a writer and an “investigative journalist” than if she made it all up.

Furthermore, contrary to the Midland Mirror squib, an e-essay (it’s even a bit of a stretch to call it a pamphlet) does not a book make. I know that legacy media is very much still engaged in manufacturing consent but this is taking it a bit far, methinks, calling “Finding Karla” a book.

I reiterate because I can: Karla was not lost or on the lamb. She was over 18 and free and she wasn’t under any indictments, or legal restrictions and there were no warrants out for her arrest. The system was finished with her a long time ago. 2015 is the 10th Anniversary of her release from jail (where she resided for 12 long years.) She did the crimes and the time. Hello! She isn’t hiding. She doesn’t have to.

Since the day she was released from prison virtually everyone I know has been mostly aware of exactly where she was at any given moment on any given day because I was. And I was getting my information from other sources. “Finding Karla” was a yawn not a revelation.

Given that Ms. Todd’s short effort at fictional non-fiction was woefully short on real feeling, artifice, opinion and fact I would think she would be too embarrassed to keep up the ruse for so long but apparently not.

While I’m on the subject – for the very last time – I should mention that I’ve seen Ms. Todd pontificating effusively from the medium she loves the most, television, as if she knew everything their was to know about the case in general and Karla Homolka in particular. She was highly visible in two of the recently very poorly conceived and produced hour-long segments made respectively by a British production house called Two-Four for one or another of the many American cable channels surfeit with tales of law and disorder.

The latest (in which I played a very small part but was happy to do so because I was handsomely reimbursed for my time – participating in projects like these can be very time consuming) was made by an operation out of Knoxville, Tennessee called Jupiter Entertainment for “The Oxygen Network” (not available in Canada, mercifully) series “Snapped.” It aired in late August or early September.

Disasters of the fast cut and amateurish awkward reenactments interspersed with a plethora of talking heads (many of whom never knew very much of anything about the case to begin with let alone the only important question it raised – why and how did Karla get away with murder) the programs are misguided, confused, fact-challenged and tedious.

Final words on Ms. Todd and her e-essay: In something so short the least one expects is accuracy – a basic, fundamental familiarity with the facts particularly given that all the facts and the full back story have been out there and easily accessible since 2003. But no. Given what I read the facts do not appear to be relevant to Ms. Todd’s work which means that on it’s face it is without merit and a rip off, even at $2.99. I have seen many reader reviews lamenting that unlike higher priced downloads, there are no refunds at $2.99. Caveat emptor always. Downloaded essays and stories at this price point are more “you pays your money and takes your chances.”

Ms. Todd has just been nominated for a “prestigious nonfiction award” according to a bulletin from the community college where she works: “Independent journalist, lawyer and part-time Seneca professor Paula Todd’s “Extreme Mean” has been nominated for the 2014 Hilary Weston Writer’s Trust Prize for Nonfiction.”

“Extreme Mean,” is a shrill, morally outraged, typical of Todd over-the-ton examination of the growing trend of cyber-bullying and the psychological damage it inflicts on its victims.

Hopefully, this effort contains more facts than fiction. Regardless, it is part of the ongoing onslaught elevating the poisonous culture of victimology in which we live.

Todd has written a blog on her publisher’s website to help promote “Extreme Mean” that in my opinion goes way over the top.

It is in the form of an “open letter” to Robin Williams’ distraught daughter, Zelda (who Todd doesn’t know from Adam) entitled “Why the Internet Needs Zelda Williams.

Apparently, in the course of “blaming” Ms. Williams for her father’s suicide some extremely mean cyberabusers known as “RIP trolls” posted pictures of a corpse (alleged to be her father’s) with strangulation marks on the neck.

This was understandably unendurable for Zelda Williams and she reasonably stopped tweeting and quit social media altogether.

Todd references the picture of the corps twice in the relatively short blog in which she proclaims solidarity with Ms. Williams, telling her she knows how she feels and pleads with her to reconsider and come back to social media because we “need” reasonable and sensitive people like her?

It seems to me that this kind of posturing has become a trope in Ms. Todd’s oeuvre where by she adopts the mantle of everywoman and then goes on catalogue her empathy and understanding and sympathy while graphically descibing the the bad behaviors she decries.

Here’s an excerpt from the blog: “But how does sending a close up of a strangled corpse (2nd mention of the corpse in the “open letter” to Zelda) to the deceased’s family register protest against public mourning, or “grief tourism,” as it’s called? Are you, Zelda, being blamed for using social media to reach out to shocked family, friends, and fans? Surely, we all have a right—a psychological need, actually—to express our emotions. Your father was a candid veteran of the drug and alcohol wars of celebrity, an intellectual fighting depression and oncoming Parkinson’s, and a man who endured his demons to bring us entertainment. Nothing gives cyberabusers the right to censor any of our reactions to his passing.”

So Paula Todd is qualified to “explain” the world to Zelda Williams and clearly thinks that’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

There is something troubling about this. To me, it’s self-serving and opportunistic. But I don’t think I’m expressing myself particularly well. Everyone one is to one degree or another self-serving and opportunistic. Read Ms. Todd’s blog and tell me what you think?

STRANGERS AND OTHER ANNIVERSARIES – PART III

DSCN05531-001Back to the Parisian producer who showed up at my remote farm door one dark winter’s day this January. “No, Ms. Ladous, you don’t come in,” I said.

Curiosity and my own vanity almost got the better of me but it was the “Truman Kaput; just like you and me” that brought me to my senses. There was some more terse incomprehensible imprecation as I was shutting the door but I was resolute that I was not going to entertain strangers unshaven and in my bathrobe. Also, as a man once besieged by media I long ago resolved not to allow anyone from the press (unless a friend invited for dinner) into my home. I long ago made it a rule that I would only give interviews or participate in a project from my hotel room in Toronto.

It occurred to me that Ms. Ladous must have gone to the Paula Todd School of Journalism where highjack and mendacity were main courses. But highjacking Karla Homolka, as we’ve seen, has a certain economic consequence but highjacking me? Where is the sense in that? Where are the $$ in Marina’s getting a few minutes of footage of me at the door in my bathrobe and pajama pants.

I was tempted though. I would have liked to explain that I have nothing in common with Truman Capote. He was a short man with a very large head, cross-addicted and a homosexual who wrote like an angel. I can only lay claim to one of those characteristics.

I would have also liked to know where she got the money for a transatlantic flight (for two) and how whatever she might do with this twenty-year-old case would ever square up and justify the time and expense?

As I’ve already described late last year, Ms. Ladous, a petite, dark-haired French woman reached out to Marsha via email and begged her to have me call her, so I did. Basically all I got a chance to ask was for more information about her “project”. The phone call occurred on Dec. 4, 2012. Here’s her email response to my verbal request which I received the following day:

“Following yesterday’s phone call I join you a “résumé” of the producer’s documentary movie…” And then some things similar to what she said on the phone: “To be a journalist in these circumstances is also something I want to show. In the documentary I want to follow Karla Homolka’s and Paul Bernardo’s criminal courses…I also imagine that there are questions without answer in this case, important points of detail deserving to be investigated and that could enlighten the public on this story…” blog.strangersand.marinaladous.resumelg

And then this: “For example, according to an investigator, Karla Homolka’s mother suspected that Tammy’s death was connected to Paul Bernardo, but she said nothing, is it true? We speak about battered women’s syndrome for Karla Homolka’s case, but according to an investigator, what she showed throughout this story is not compatible with the battered women’s syndrome, or the mental influence in state of suggestion. I have just finished a movie about this. The way she lives now days also proves that she does not deny nor regret her past, otherwise why was called TEALE? I read your books. I know that your testimony joins totally in my story. I shall be in Toronto on January 11th, I shall want to come back with you on the scene from this incredible file(case) that you know better that whoever.
Waiting for your answer.
Respectfully yours.
Marina L.”

I have embedded a jpg. copy of the “resume” Ms. Ladous “joined” at the top of this post. (Just off-the-cuff: It is very odd to me that almost everything I’ve seen from television people these days is printed on dark backgrounds and in an eligible font. What’s up with that?)

What she called a resume was in reality a “pitch” document in very broken English but it made a wacky kind of sense, sort of. I got the gist. It was written in the third person and began by explaining the logos at the top of the page:

“‘Lila production’ is a production comany co-developing feature movies and TV series. ‘Magneto Presse’ is a press agency producing high-quality documentaries for all major TV channels and ’13eme Rue’, owned by Universial, has commissioned us to produce ‘Marina aux pays des tueurs’ A series of 90 minutes documentaries revisiting cases involving killers around the world: Juarez, Mexico, Sweden, the Linkoping missing, French cold cases.
Marina Ladous a well-known expert in investigative reporting is the director.
In 2012, she filmed in Bagdad, Iraq. In the end of 2012, she finished a 90 minutes film about dangerous cults. In worldwide for the needs of her investigation, she was an undercover adept in different cults, and it too her a year work. She is also the director of ‘The French in front of law’ a series about difficult cases involving lawyers and judges in court. She also filmed in prison, ‘Dangerous Inmates’.
In 2006, she realized a film with FBI testimony, about Dayton Rogers, a Green-River killer copycat….”
It concludes “It has been five years since Marina speaks to us of this file. (sic. the Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo files mentioned in the mid-paragraphs.) She followed year after year the evolutions. The new life of Karla? The cold-case who could involve Paul Bernardo? The human implications of the policeman, the magistrates, the lawyers, the journalists and the witnesses. Can we emerge unscathed from this?
Marina’s experience of the criminal world makes her say that in spite of past years nobody forgot neither, Leslie or Kristen, neither Jane Doe, nor the January girl and 43 victims of Scarborough.
To decipher the criminal world is also a way to warn.
The shooting of the movie will begin on January 3rd, 2013.
We thank you in advance for the assistance you may agree to grant us.
Sincerely.
Yael Berdugo, Producer.”

I have tried to embed “live” links to the two television programs Ms. Ladous allegedly produced or worked for in this post without success. No idea why so I am just typing them in. The first about a retired elite cop living in seclusion after the brutal murder of his wife. A judge visits him to try and convince him to investigate two unsolved horrific murders. Hard to say whether this is a documentary or a re-creation: http://www.cinando.com/DefaultController.aspx?PageId=FicheFilm&IdC=11189&IdF=85915

The second about a murderer in Lyon, France called “At the Heart of Crime” hosted by Carole Rosseau: http://www.leblogtvnews.com/article-au-coeur-du-crime-avec-carole-rousseau-l-affaire-ortiz-46397949.html

I wrote back to Ms. Ladous on December 5, 2012:

“I’d be pleased to assist you in whatever way I can with the making of your documentary.
There are a few things I need to know and need for you to appreciate….” [Note: I have very specific but I think eclectic tastes in television programs and don’t want to be involved with anything that I do not understand or that I would not watch nor anything in which my input is not valued. Participating in the making of television programs, short or long, can be very time-consuming and expense-generating.]
“You told me you have read ‘Karla.’ I would not necessarily know that otherwise.
Would it be helpful to you were I able to get a French version to pass on?…. Your question about Dorothy Homolka, Karla’s mother: I don’t know who your source “investigator” is (there are a number of ill-informed people who persist in opinionating on the internet through various list-serves without even a basic working knowledge of the case) but I can tell you definitively that Mrs. Homolka did not suspect Tammy Lyn’s death was connected to either Bernardo or Karla until a good two years after the fact.

At that point of Karla’s violent separation from Mr. Bernardo, Mrs. Homolka knew something was very amiss but Karla did not tell her mother definitively until much later when her psychiatrist Dr. Hans Arndt “assisted” her composition of a comprehensive letter of confession.

Mrs. Homolka never suspected either of them had anything to do with Tammy Lyn’s death. My researcher conducted long conversations with Dorothy Homolka. Mrs. Homolka is not media-friendly, never has been and has never granted a formal interview to anyone except us.

If you knew Mrs. Homolka you would know that if she suspected such a thing she would never have sat back and accepted the coroner’s terribly flawed report that stated Tammy Lyn’s death was “accidental”.

If she knew anything she would have sounded the alarm and made sure the situation was resolved. She is not the kind of woman to keep anything to herself, including her opinions. She has many.
I could make time for you in January. What is your budget? I cannot collaborate for free, so how much of my time I could devote to you and your project depends on your budget. Let me know.

Nice to talk to you and thank you for your interest. I hope it’s a little warmer in France (I did not catch exactly where you are) at the moment than it is here in Toronto. Don’t forget your parka and toque and mittens. It’s damned cold in January in Toronto.”

A bit long you say. Perhaps, but it’s one of my pathologies that when engaged and confronted with ignorant questions or statements, I tend to go on. This is one of the reasons that I am shy of engagement and wary of strangers.

Doubly odd then, that this wayward stranger from the borderless and stateless land of Television would forsake the urbane pleasures of Paris, transverse the mighty Atlantic Ocean, make her way 90 miles northwest of Toronto in the worst snowstorm of the year to find three feet of snow accumulated in our quarter-mile long lane, had not taken the hint that the gods were against her enterprise and knock on our door. I enjoined Ms. Ladous to contact me by phone or email so that the questions I had could be answered and we could set up a proper session as I closed the door.

The local radio station was describing the school and road closures and they were legion. When we went out an hour later to go to town for supplies it was still snowing. There was no trace of Marina Ladous or her cameraman. If Marsha had not been there I would have thought I was hallucinating. I have not heard from or seen Marina Ladous again and a Google search of her name only turns up this blog?

STRANGERS AND STRANGE ANNIVERSAIRIES – PART II

2009_0303stehenscamera0038I’ll come back to the woman from France and how that played out.

This past Friday, February 15, 2013 I got an email from the crime reporter for Global Television, Catherine McDonald. Catherine told me something that I could hardly believe: It was the 20th anniversary of Paul Bernardo’s arrest. The problem is, for me, it happened yesterday. I was sitting in my studio reading a long newspaper report about Bernardo’s arrest. Deep in the copy it said that Bernardo was married to a young woman from St. Catharines. I jotted down a note to a couple of publishers I knew. It asked who this young wife was and what she was doing all the while Bernardo was out allegedly raping and pillaging? I fashioned it as a book proposal and faxed it off. (Was there email in 1993? If there was it was not ubiquitous – the obsolete fax was the fastest medium). It was Sunday. By Monday evening I had a book deal.

This compression of time (and space, because there is very much a spatial aspect to memory) can be discombobulating. Further, I sense there is some kind of renaissance of interest in the Paul and Karla cases, as though they are perpetually going through generational rediscovery. (Or else what was the young French woman at my door?) This is curious to me because there are no heroes in that seaweed and there are no lessons to be learned from the tragic expression of Paul and Karla’s darkest natures. For some one who was fully prepared to move on and never think about any of the details again by early winter 1998, I found myself parroting Michael Corleone in “Godfather III”: “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in!”

On the upside, I have noticed a decided up tick in the sales of my books in both in Canada and the United States which is something quite remarkable given that “Invisible Darkness: The Horrifying Case of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka” was published 15 years ago and “Karla: A Pact with the Devil” in 2003 – 2004. At any rate, Catherine wanted me to do a “hit” – give her a comment or two on camera. She said she was at the courthouse covering some current malfeasance – I think it was the anesthesiologist who is alleged to have sexually assaulted dozens of female patients after he put them under for various surgeries over the past dozen years.

Canadians seem to have a purchase on the most peculiar and bizarre crimes – I have never heard of anything like the crimes this doctor is accused of perpetrating in any other country in the world; similarly there is no series of crimes so deviant and peculiar as those Colonel Russell Williams confessed to, not to mention Paul and Karla’s trespasses, unique, as far as I know, in the annals of criminal behavior.

Catherine explained that Paul Bernardo’s erstwhile defense lawyer John Rosen was conveniently in the courthouse defending some other miscreant and had agreed to say something and she thought I would make the ideal counterpart.

Catherine is a vivacious and persuasive woman who just happens to be married to a good friend of mine, Adrian Montgomery, and she is also eight-and-a-half months pregnant. Although I really have never had any particular interest in Paul Bernardo who I’ve always seen as a callow pawn in Karla’s game, a kind of fern bar habitué gone very wrong, it’s hard to say no to Catherine. However, when she found out I was at the farm and did not intend to come into Toronto that day, as I had indicated to Adrian I was going to be earlier in the week – I believe I said to him “I am going to be at Ciao (the Yorkville bar and eatery where the partisans gather every Friday evening in Toronto,) come Hell or high water, on February 15.” For emphasis I said “I’m a third generation Torontonian. My grandfather had a butcher shop at the corner of Eglinton and Spadina; legend has it I was born on the loading dock of Marty Millionaire’s at the corner of Queen and Parliament. (See Sandra Martin’s profile in “Toronto Life,” October 2004) The fact that I don’t have a pied-a-terre in the city and the mobility to come and go as I please is a tragedy of epic proportion: Diligently working to rectify that situation – it’s what keeps me going.”

I meant what I said except my beloved paramour Marsha Boulton and I had been traveling for a couple of days, visiting old friends who own wineries in the Niagara Peninsula and Marsha was tired and did not feel like a trip to the city and she trumps Hell and high water.

Catherine said she could not possibly come up to the farm – there was simply no time – she had to have the piece done and finished for Global’s six o’clock news broadcast and hung up.

When I told Marsha about Catherine and the anniversary of Paul Bernardo’s arrest she was willing to make an exception so I called Catherine back and made arrangements to meet her at the Global studios as soon as I could get there – which would probably be around 4:00 PM. That would work.

With no time to indulge any nostalgia – I’m not much for nostalgia anyway but 10 years involvement in the morass that became the Bernardo and Homolka disaster for me, it is sometimes hard to stave off, we hurriedly packed, kept our reservation at the Metropolitan Hotel and furiously made a rather uneventful 2 1/2 hour drive. We arrived at the studios on Barber Green at about 4:10PM.

I saw the piece at 11:30 PM in our hotel room that night. I was on air for about 25 seconds. Rosen got 40. It wasn’t profound but it was nostalgic.

FINDING KARLA: FRAUD, FICTION OR BOTH – PT. III

It’s my blog and I can cry if I want to… and blow my own horn. In my first post I pointed out that 2/3’s of Paula Todd’s “Finding Karla” e-essay was an error riddled rehash of Karla’s crimes.

In various media reports breathlessly lauding the Finkle/Todd excercise as the advent of a new form of personalized digital publishing (previously known as “vanity publishing”) – a story that was current about three years ago but news to Canadian media types such as Simon Houpt at the Globe and Mail and Greg Quill from the Toronto Star.

They must have missed all that reportage in the New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian and virtually every other major organ in the United States, Great Britain and Europe about start ups like Byliner and the evolution of long-form journalism. But that’s another topic.

The problem with vanity publishing is exactly Finkle and Todd’s problem – you are your own fact checker and editor. Because they did not made the effort necessary to command the facts, they published a small essay that is severely fact challenged. If it were a dissertation Todd would be denied her degree.

According to Derek Finkle’s well-placed wink-wink-and nod to suggestible scribblers, their little digital vanity publishing experiment took about 75,000 people for $2.99 plus tax. Not a bad sleight of mind.

On the subject of Karla’s crimes, almost everyone alive with any knowledge of the case believes they have been retold too often. It is also somewhat ironic that the best and most succinct account can be had for free.

If I’m not mistaken, you can sample the first two or three chapters of any book you download (I know this to be true for iBooks) to decide if it’s worth putting out $9.99 or $12.95 or whatever. Thomas Pynchon’s recently digitally re-issued “Mason & Dixon” cost almost $14.00 including tax, but I was able to remind myself why it was worth every penny before I shelled out.

Apparently this was not the case with the Todd/Finkle offering but then again it was published as the short stuff i.e. as a Kindle Short. However, this sampling facility certainly applies to my last book on the case, “Karla: A Pact with the Devil”

I’ve included the link to the American Kindle edition below. In first three pages of the first chapter entitled “In the Beginning” is the best and most succinct summation of Karla’s crimes in existence. You can also read the first chapter on my website www.stephenwilliamsbooks.com by clicking the “Books” navigation button and then clicking the “Karla” button.

Given that we are approaching the 20th Anniversary of Karla’s conviction and the 10th Anniversary of her release from prison, it really should have been the last word on the subject.

Link to American Kindle edition. Karla: A Pact for the Devil is now available for the first time in the United States. Currently in Kobo and Kindle editions. Nook and iBooks and Sony reader shortly. Also internationally on Kobo and Kindle

FINDING KARLA: FRAUD, FICTION OR BOTH – PT. II

In early 2002, shortly after I finished the first draft of “Karla: A Pact with the Devil,” the large Canadian publisher who contracted it, General Publishing Co., went bankrupt owing authors and suppliers over $45 million.

Because I had been paid a substantial advance and already collected most of it and somehow managed to keep the property out of the trustees’ hands, I felt extremely lucky. Now I could resell the book for as much or more.

I was certain it would sell like gangbusters. The book was anchored by an 18-month long, voluminous, no-holds-barred correspondence with Karla herself and included interviews with the man who was the architect of Karla’s deals, the man with whom the buck actually stopped. The book, among many other things, told the unknown story about exactly why and how Karla was given a future.

Karla had never spoken publicly to anyone outside of her immediate family. Neither had the lofty government agent, Michael Code who crafted the deal destined to be described in perpetuity as having been done with the Devil. He talked at length and in depth.

Writing in the Globe and Mail, Christy Blatchford called the Karla correspondence “the scoop of the Century.” I don’t know about that but the book contained a plethora of hitherto fore unknown information and perspectives and told a compelling story.

I was convinced I had a well-written bestseller on my hands. And a well-researched one to boot. Publishers would be crawling all over themselves for this manuscript. I had sugar plum visions of bidding wars dancing in my head.

I could not have been more wrong. The manuscript was shopped to sixteen or so of the largest publishing companies in the United States and Canada to no avail.

In spite of the fact that “Invisible Darkness: The Strange Case of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka,” my first book about the case, had been contracted by Bantam/ Random House in New York, no one at any of the many Random House companies in New York had ever heard of Karla Homolka let alone wanted a book about her.

The editor who had originally worked with me had long since left the company. Random House and its affiliated companies literally have tens of thousands of mass-market paperbacks in their backlists. Regardless of the fact that “Invisible Darkness” was the least returned mass market paperback book in Bantam’s long and storied history and continues to sell remarkably well 14 years after it was first published, they did not give a rat’s ass.

My New York agent, the legendary and respected Sterling Lord, could not get anyone in the business to even read the manuscript.

I found no solace in Toronto. Canadian publishers said the same thing although a few felt compelled to elaborate. They said nobody was interested in “her” anymore. “Invisible Darkness” was definitive. There was nothing left to say. Some added, indignantly, that it was an unsavory subject about which Canadians had heard too much already and had real animus to the very mention of her name.

No one bothered to read the manuscript in Canada either, with the exception of Diane Martin, then a senior editor at Random House Canada. When Ms. Martin recommended to the publishing committee that Random House publish it, a number of her colleagues said they would resign rather than see that happen. These days’ committees almost universally make publishing decisions. Of course, it was turned back.

Then Fate introduced me to a crazed French Canadian from Montreal with delusions of grandeur and the strange concept of establishing a bilingual publishing empire in Canada.

One evening while I was in the midst of the rejection fest Pierre Turgeon called because he had negotiated the French rights with General but they went tits up before a contract was signed and any money changed hands. He wondered who had the rights now and when the book was going to be published in English and by whom.

I told him I owned the rights. In the process of negotiating a price for the French ones, I told him my tale of woe. I had no idea when or even if it was ever going to be published in English.

He sent me a check for the French rights. After it cleared he called again. “Karla: A Pact with the Devil” became the cornerstone of his cockamamie notion of a bilingual empire. His checks kept clearing so it took about a month after its English publication in the spring of 2003 for me to realize that Turgeon was not only crazy but also a con man and a crook.

Before the enlightenment, we convinced Fitzhenry and Whiteside, a staid, old Canadian owned publishing house to distribute “Karla” . The former president of General Publishing, Nelson Doucette, had sought refuge there, and fortunately remained an advocate for the book.

Again, the one person who took the time to read it, John Winskill, then the Director of Marketing and Sales for F&W, a lovely man who had recently had a heart transplant and was not long for this world, thought it a significant and important work. Between the two they managed to convince the skeptical proprietor to take it on. After all, they weren’t publishing the thing, just distributing it.

To say initial sales were tepid would be an understatement because they were virtually non-existent. The first couple of weeks after a book is published are critical. We all became extremely concerned.

Even a weekend of terrific reviews across the country did nothing to boost it. The book was flat lined. It appeared that everyone else was right and Diane Martin, John Winskill, Nelson Doucette and I were wrong.

That was before the oleaginous lawyer for the families of Paul and Karla’s victims decided to paraded them before the insatiable media for an hour-long, live, nationally televised “press conference”

Between close ups of the solemn and tear-stained faces of Mr. and Mrs. French, Tim Danson self-righteously railed against the book’s publication, waving it like a Pentecostal preacher’s Bible, pointing out the outrageous and possibly “illegal” color photographs contained therein and avowing it was libelous, he called upon the righteous everywhere, including all booksellers, to boycott “Karla: A Pact with the Devil.”

Many intimidated, confused booksellers took his advice. Heather Reisman whose Indigo/ Chapters chain accounts for 90 percent of all bricks and mortar book sales in Canada did not. (This is all BEB – Before E-Books.) She took the advice of her vice-president of all things public and promotional, Tracy Nesdoly, who happened to be another person who took the time to read it, agreed with the few others who had done so and told Heather so. Ms. Reisman refused to sell “Mein Kampf” but took a stand with “Karla.”

“Karla” sold 20,000 copies in the 3 days immediately after the Danson “news conference”. If Turgeon could have found one printer in Canada whom he had not already swindled, it would have been quickly reprinted and the stores restocked in a matter of days, “Karla” would have sold many tens of thousands more in its first month of publication (It is just recently that the book has been published in the United States, so far only in a Kindle ebook edition.)

Sales and numbers mean everything to professional writers – those who actually feed themselves by their writing, rare birds though they are. But the reason “Karla: A Pact with the Devil” became a bestseller had nothing to do with the remarkable and intimate correspondence I shared with my subject.

Nor was it because the book is a well written, spellbinding tale of duplicity and deceit among the rich and powerful but rather because it became the center of rampant, almost rapid nation-wide publicity campaign the magnitude of which no publisher could ever conceive or finance.

Whether Paula Todd and Derek Finkle’s little fiction, “Finding Karla,” has any merit – and most people who have read it say not – many do feel swindled because it is so insubstantial and the tone is one of almost hysterical confusion and outrage, it drew an inordinate amount of national publicity.

The question is why?

I understand why lawyer Timmy Danson did what he did. You don’t, unless you’ve read “Karla,” but we won’t get into that.

The fact the Karla corresponded with me as long and as candidly as she did, was a real “scoop” but it made no difference. Even after reviewers and commentators across the country remarked on the book’s merits, sales remained stagnate.

I did not expect to be arrested – again – but I was, thanks again to Tim and that did nothing to harm the sales of either book – quite the contrary – but that is also beside the point.

It also lifted Random House’s heavy lidded eyes. A few people in the publisher’s employ, other than Diane Martin, read the book and realized she had been right. They published “Karla” in a finely edited mass market paperback and ebook edition that continues to sell well to this day, a full 19 years after Karla was convicted and incarcerated and 7 years after her release.

The publicity that has accrued to Ms. Todd and Mr. Finkle’s efforts is of an entirely different kind. As far as the old media is concerned it sounds its own death knell because it is characteristic of a malaise that has long lain dormant in its blood stream.

As T.S. Elliot so famously composed endings come with whimpers not bangs. The media’s hysterical reaction to the publication of Finkle/Todd’s work of investigative fiction is a whimper.

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FINDING KARLA: FRAUD, FICTION OR BOTH?

Given that Karla Homolka was not lost in the first place, the idea that someone found her is a fiction and given that there was a decidedly commercial side to its propagation, that “finding” might just be fraud.

Not of the magnitude of Conrad Black’s accuser Richard Breenen’s corporate kleptocracy fiction rather more like Martha Stewart’s little lie to the FBI about insider knowledge not being the motivation for her $80,000 stock trade; call it obstruction of the truth by Paula Todd and Derek Finkle for minor financial gain.

I have known exactly where Karla is, and was, for almost two years. I have her physical addresses in Quebec and Guadeloupe, her email addresses and telephone numbers. I also know the three women who actually found her almost three years ago and exactly how they did it.

Unlike Ms. Todd, none us were rude or desperate enough to highjack her.

Unlike Ms. Todd’s vague and improbable descriptions of how she allegedly “tracked down” the “elusive” and “slippery” Karla Homolka by “scouring” obscure “foreign” databases, these women’s success at finding Karla and corresponding with her was quite ingenious, more so when you consider who they are and why they were looking for her in the first place.

Although “found” is still a misnomer. Karla was hiding in plain sight precisely because no one was really looking for her which puts the lie to another of Finkle’s and Todd’s assertions that there were legions of journalists frantically scouring the world for Karla.

If there was so much interest in Karla why did the two broadcasters with whom Paula Todd is closely associated, CTV and the CBC (hubby Doug Grant happens to be the head honcho of “Public Affairs” for the network) not assign the story and set her up with a professional camera man and hidden sound and video recording equipment?

For that matter, Todd could have done the hidden video/ hidden tape recorder thing herself. Why didn’t she?

Why are there no other photographs in “Finding Karla” than the one allegedly shot by the man who spent a week in a tree; albeit a tree a mile away from the Bordelais compound. Macleans Magazine pronounced the innocous and inconclusive snap an “iconic” image.

Why did Paula Todd need a man in a tree for a week? Doesn’t she have a smart phone with a built-in camera? Everyone else on the planet does. I use my iPhone to record stuff every day. It has a very sensitive built-in microphone.

Why are there no shots of the road on which Homolka lives? Or the mailbox with Leanne Bordelais printed on it? Whoops, another fiction: Karla goes by the name Emily Bordelais now and has for years. Never used Leanne. Even discussed why she would never use it with me when she and I corresponded over an 18-month period in 2001 and 2002.

Why not a shot of Ms. Todd’s quaint Guadeloupean hotel? Or the “experienced cabbie” she hired for “company,” the one she explained to – “in French” – that she was “visiting someone” but “it could be dangerous;” the one whose “warm face and intelligent eyes” she studied before she decided to “go for it” i.e. go and highjack the dangerous Karla Homolka. (God, it reads like a bad B-movie script.)

A snap of that guy with his warm face and intelligent eyes beside the post box with Leanne Bordelais’ name on it would have at least added some color to the report.

Why are there not more shots included in her digital publication to establish some sense of place?

Her clumsy, uninspired descriptions don’t cut it for me. It is as though she wrote the piece in her living room while reading the Wikipedia entry on Guadeloupe with a little Ian Fleming on the side.

Are we really supposed to believe, as Todd tries desperately to convey, that she was in fear for her life in Guadeloupe, one of the most friendly and hospitable islands in the Caribbean and therefore afraid to take pictures or use a miniature tape recorder?

The photographer’s description of his ordeal in Macleans Magazine and on the Reuters photography blog sounds so improbable it seems more likely that the picture is photoshopped or a studio set up.

Working photographers, especially ones with Zoran Milich’s pedigree, seldom ply their trade for chump change, let alone live in a tree hounded by hostile goats for a week to score such an innocuous and unremarkable shot. Surely he knew there’s no international market for grainy pictures of women bending over to pick up babies.

The woman leaning over to pick something up in the shot (that it’s a baby or small child is by no means evident) could just as easily be a model. That frame of foliage would have been a breeze to compose.

Having seen Karla in much closer proximity a number of times I can tell you that there are a lot of women out there who closely resemble her. This one photograph proves nothing. It doesn’t even establish that he and Paula Todd were on the island.

I do not “know” Paula Todd but I do know Derek Finkle who is given credit for editing and “publishing” this badly written and researched exercise in reality-based fiction.

I do know that Mr. Finkle is capable of all manner of malfeasance not the least of which is outright theft but also of publishing lies and distortions as fact. He has done so with impunity in the past.

The only difference this time is he seems to have hit a bit of a jackpot, thanks to the overwrought reaction of all Paula Todd’s “colleagues” still embedded in the ever-diminishing ranks of the old media.

I think we are in the realm of H.L. Mencken who said “no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”

For a man who has been passing himself off as both a serious person and an editor for well over a decade and a mature woman who calls herself not only an “investigative reporter” (Jack Anderson’s roiling in his grave) but also a lawyer, between the two of them they could not get the facts of Karla’s crimes, deals, sentencing and life after release right.

After all, two-thirds of their e-scam is given over to a factually challenged rehash of Karla’s crimes, something I’ve been repeatedly told by senior publishers and editors in this country, has been done to death and for which there is no more public tolerance.

For instance, Karla and her lawyer had nothing to do with getting her plea agreements; those were the idea and creation of then Assistant Deputy Attorney General Michael Code and the head of the Green Ribbon Task Force, Inspector Vince Bevan. And not because the police did not have any videotape evidence. They did.

Videotape evidence, its presence or absence, had nothing to do with Karla’s deals, their motivation or their details, although you would never know it reading either Todd and Finkle’s “creative journalism” or any of the media logorrhoea it generated.

It’s a very persistent myth that the deals would not have been done if only Bernardo’s lawyer had not held onto a bunch of videotapes for so long.

After all, the Ministry of the Attorney General threw a few more millions after the tens of millions it needlessly spent putting on the deSadean theatrical production called “The Bernardo Trial,” prosecuting Bernardo lawyer Ken Murray in its aftermath for some form of obstructing Justice. Of course he was acquitted but the Ministry considered the money well spent because it reinforced their fabricated version of events.

It remains, just as the authorities carefully scripted it to become, a staple in any commentary or media reportage about the “controversial” Karla and her so-called “sweetheart deals” to this day.

To once again call on the Great Skewer of those who eschew the inconvenient truth, H.L. Mencken defined “the height of mediocrity” as “the ready acceptance of received opinion.” One would have thought a journalist of Paula Todd’s stature would have done everything she could to not end up teetering from those dizzying heights.

There’s much more: I may be splitting hairs here but Karla, legally speaking, is not a serial killer – which should concern Paula Todd – if she really is a lawyer and given that hair-splitting is that profession’s stock and trade.

Nor is Karla, by the definition accepted in law, a pedophile.

Nor is she a psychopath or sociopath as Todd and many others including Andrew Mitrovica (who should know better) unequivocally state; at least not in terms of the Hare Checklist which is allegedly the world recognized test for a condition that most level headed psychiatrists consider a fiction.

It was administered to Karla on three different occasions in the few years before she was released from prison in 2005. The Hare Checklist was negative for psychopathy every time they checked. Karla was not even close to qualifying for that scary distinction. Not that anything hangs on it one way or the other. It’s just more smoke and mirrors.

The great irony in this story is that all the facts are very easily acquired today, all a matter of public record. – absolutely no need to search in “more sophisticated databases” or resort to “forensic surfing” and “cyber border” crossing as Todd claimed she had to do.

While I’m at it, another fiction perpetrated by Ms. Todd is her self-righteous and unprofessional assertion that the Canadian public has a right to know where Karla is and also that it “needs to know” and “wants to know.” Is Paula Todd omniscient? Has an arbitrator of national morality who understands our collective psyche finally found us?

In Chapter Three (pg. 13), Ms. Todd writes in her hyperventilated, breathless style “Homolka’s back story remains seared into Canada’s national conscience…” What? Neither the Canadian public or Ms. Todd know Karla’s “back story” or they would have all of the relevant facts at hand. I mean “..seared into Canada’s national conscience?” Give me a break. Knock me down and call me Susan.

Although there is no such thing as a “national consciousness” or “conscience” they too are very convenient and often-invoked fictions by the increasingly tabloid-tempered mainstream media but the idea that Paula Todd has some kind of psychic connection to the collective Canadian consciousness is just silly. Now she is invoking a fiction to rationalize a fiction.

But let’s consider for a moment I’m wrong. If there is such a thing as a collective mind, consciousness, or conscience, Ms. Todd does not describe how she gained access to it further confounding the idea that she is “a smart, inexhaustible ace investigator”, as Zoran Milich loquaciously described her in his blog post.

Then there is the legion of straightforward factually incorrect statements she asserts such as Karla’s Catholic baptism.

During the conversation that she constructs with Karla in the last chapter (on pg. 143) Todd writes “Then I remember she was baptized a Catholic, and therefore, her confessions to a priest are considered highly confidential and usually won’t be repeated to the outside world.”

Then she says to Karla “It’s not always written that a priest can’t speak, but a priest doesn’t speak,”

It’s as though Todd, so shocked when Karla had no idea who she was told her to “google me,” is trying to draw comparison between her self-proclaimed role as a crusading journalist and avenger of the collective Canadian outrage over Karla’s freedom and future with that of a priest in the spiritual and moral realms.

No wonder Karla had no idea what the hell Todd was talking about, illiciting another sanctimonious and irritating editorialization from Todd: “Again, no sense there.” Maybe that’s the problem. Todd missed the Talking Head’s dictum to “stop making sense.” Particularly when there is none to be made.

The Homolkas are not Catholics. Baptism in the Catholic Church is a problem for non-Catholics. It never happens.

The short e-book is rife with errors like this. How much fiction should we tolerate in a work touted as “investigative journalism?” 25%? 50%? The whole enchilda, if its convenient and we are perpetuately in a resigned state of mind?

In the end, this fiction Todd and Finkle have perpetrated on the Canadian public, aided and abetted as they were by a pliant Canadian media, will evaporate in the blowback of the indisputable fact that the vast majority of Canadians, Americans, Armenians, Spanish, English, French, Chinese etc., etc. etc. do not give a rat’s ass about Karla Homolka.

No one cares where she is, what she’s doing or what she is thinking. Nor do they need to hear her say she’s sorry. As Karla told me shortly before her release from prison, “What would be the point? No one would believe me.” Duh.

And I know this how? I will explain anon.