The Mystery of Edward Vernon
A reader has written to ask me if it is true, as is apparently claimed in the Wikipedia entry dedicated to my alleged biography, that I used the penname Edward Vernon for three books in the 1970s (Practice Makes Perfect, Practise What You Preach and Getting Into Practice) because the books were ‘an amended version of my actual cases’.
I have absolutely no idea where this idea came from, and I am sure it was included there in all innocence, but it is as fictional as the books themselves.
The three Edward Vernon books are all novels (which is to say that everything in them was made up) and my literary agent at the time suggested that I use the pen name because I was busy writing non-fiction medical books under my own name.
My literary agent at the time (Curtis Brown) was selling my non-fiction books under the name Vernon Coleman and thought it might be difficult to sell paperback rights to a series of novels written under the same name. So I created a not very original pen name using my Christian names reversed.
Pan, which published my early non-fiction books, subsequently bought the paperback rights of my novel Practise Makes Perfect by Edward Vernon (it had been published in the UK in hardback by Macmillan and in America by Tom McCormack of St Martin’s Press, who had also published Alf Wight’s ‘James Herriot’ books) but the editors there didn’t know that Vernon Coleman and Edward Vernon were the same person. I remember a rather embarrassing meeting with Pan Books when I had to admit that I was Edward Vernon. I couldn’t really avoid the confession because I was doing promotional tours for both books. Pan published the books under the heading Autobiography/Humour for commercial reasons. Actually, Pan were very happy that the books were fictional because it reduced the libel risk.
(I grew a beard when I was promoting the Edward Vernon books, thinking that it might prove a suitable disguise. However, when I appeared live on Central Television in the Midlands the first question was: ‘Vernon Coleman, why have you grown a beard and why are you now calling yourself Edward Vernon?’ I can’t remember what I replied. I have used a number of other pen names over the years but they aren’t listed.)
Sadly, I’m not allowed to correct these (or any other errors, misconceptions and omissions) because the subjects of Wikipedia biographies are not allowed to make corrections. However, drug company employees are allowed to change whatever they like and amend my ‘biography’ to suit their masters.
Wikipedia apparently also reports that I have been censured by both the Press Complaints Council and the Advertising Standards Authority. This is absolutely true but what Wikipedia doesn’t mention is that in both cases I was censored for claiming that meat can cause cancer. The complainant in both cases was the meat trade. The PCC did not like an article I wrote warning that researchers had proved a link between eating red meat and developing cancer. The ASA did not like an advert for my book Food for Thought which contains details of 26 scientific references proving the link between eating meat and developing cancer. Both bodies (both funded by large companies and neither of them statutory) refused to look at 26 medical and scientific references which I offered to them in my defence. And subsequently, of course, the World Health Organisation, and just about every Government agency in the world, published reports confirming that I had been right to point out the link between meat and cancer. It might have been nice if Wikipedia had mentioned this background.
The last time I looked, Wikipedia also published a bitchy quote about me from The Independent but failed to mention that this comment appeared in The Independent after its sister paper The Independent on Sunday had found it necessary to publish a lengthy correction and an apology for a libellous and inaccurate profile which they had printed. It is true that I have annoyed a lot of people. But most of them worked for large organisations such as drug companies, meat companies and so on.
It does seem terribly unreasonable to continue publishing proven inaccuracies and misleading comments. If an Encyclopaedia is to be taken seriously, it must surely be impartial and as complete as possible.
Talking of complete, the list of my books on Wikipedia mysteriously stops at 2011 (though I have written a number of books since then, including several diaries and two more volumes in the Bilbury series). A more up-to-date list is obtainable from this website and from Amazon.
And the list of references on Wikipedia is very short and selective. (There is a more complete list of relevant and impartial references on this website under the heading ‘Reference Articles Referring to Vernon Coleman’ in the section headed ‘Biography and Contact Details’).
I have spent my life campaigning on many issues. Sadly, and not unexpectedly, this has led to endless attacks from the drug industry and from journalists hired to protect the establishment’s interests.
I have been threatened, libelled, burgled, banned and hacked and much of the material about me on the Web is patently spiteful and malicious. My website has been taken down more times than I can remember and I had to threaten to sue Yahoo to persuade their legal department to remove an article claiming that I wasn’t a properly qualified doctor.
(Articles on the Web by Geraldine Bedell and ‘Transition Culture’ seem to me to stand out as particularly mean and spiteful. Ms Bedell , who admitted to having strong views on the use of animals in experiments – it is safe to assume that these were not the same as mine - wrote a ‘hatchet’ piece of innuendo and misrepresentation masquerading as biography in The Independent on Sunday. Was the attack inspired by the variance in our views? Or was it a result of other influences? The piece was so offensive and inaccurate that the paper also published a long correction and a fairly grovelling apology – which, of course, never appear on the Web. Ms Bedell has something of a track record in distorting the truth. She is alleged to have rather desperately attempted to get publicity for a book she had written by inaccurately claiming that she and her book had been banned. And a bloke from Transition Culture wrote a strange tirade about a book of mine which he said he had not bothered to read, but which it turned out was probably getting rather more coverage than a book on the same subject which he had written. Surely he could not have been jealous?)
It is perhaps hardly surprising that I know of no young medical writers taking on the medical and pharmaceutical establishment.
Sadly, campaigning on health issues is not something I would recommend.
In truth the whole internet has become so depressing that I have decided to name, shame and sue any spiteful or sanctimonious bastards who distort the truth or tell lies about me in the future.
But, on a jollier note, my sincere thanks to the many readers who have, in one way or another, supported me over the years.
There are hundreds of free articles on www.vernoncoleman.com and www.vernoncoleman.co.uk
For a biography please see www.vernoncoleman.org or www.vernoncoleman.net
And there are over 60 books by Vernon Coleman available as ebooks on Amazon
I’m afraid, however, that you have to pay for those. (But not a lot.)
Copyright Vernon Coleman