Author Douglas Preston Indicted in Italy; Internet Writers Organization Spreads the Word

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Writing group offers New York Times best-selling author help and support

Backspace, an online writers organization of 400 members in a dozen countries, initiated an email and Internet publicity campaign last week that resulted in Italy’s two largest newspapers carrying prominent accounts of the internationally known, best-selling thriller author Douglas Preston’s judicial harassment in that country. “The story is making the rounds of the Internet through the blogs of writers, critics, and intellectuals,” wrote Milan’s Corriere della Sera. “It was republished by the newsletter of the International Thriller Writers, which reaches many hundreds of authors, and in that way came to the notice of the Boston Globe and the New York Times.” Preston added, "[Backspace] got the ball rolling. This is a result of your work and I'm extremely grateful."

Five days earlier, after Preston conducted an online question and answer session at the Backspace discussion forums, he explained to Backspace administrator Karen Dionne why he was unable to offer the group as much time as he hoped: he had only recently returned from Italy where he had been taken into custody, charged with perjury, and accused of being an accessory to murder.

After his return to the States, Preston told Dionne he spent a frustrating week trying to enlist the help of rights organizations on behalf on his co-author, Italian journalist Mario Spezi, with minimal results. Spezi is still in Italy, accused of and being investigated for murder as a result of his and Preston’s non-fiction book about the serial killer known as the Monster of Florence, who murdered fourteen people in the hills of Florence from 1974 to 1985. “It's incredible that in a civilized country such as Italy, a journalist can be accused of trumped-up murder charges because he dared challenge a powerful judge,” Preston said. “Spezi is in grave danger. His financial health, his career, and his very freedom are at risk. I have hopes of creating enough of a stir to embarrass the Italian authorities.”

The book criticizes the chief prosecutor, Michele Giuttari, and the chief Examining Magistrate of Perugia, Giuliano Mignini – the same judge who presided over Preston’s recent interrogation – for bungling the case that has become the longest-running and most expensive unresolved criminal investigation in Italian history.

More details at Backspace’s Publishers Marketplace blog and MobyLives.

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Karen Dionne