Monty Roberts Truth or Fiction

TRUTH OR FICTION: Does Anyone Know The Difference Anymore?
Susan Harris

It has to be related to television and the movies and even computer and video games. All that ‘virtual reality’ has people not knowing the difference between fact and fiction. Each new generation becomes further removed from the realities of life in general. Television shows and films take great license in portraying true events. What that really means is that a mere kernel, the gist of an idea or story, was based on a true event. Anything after that is complete fiction. But, people take it as a true story, nonetheless.

Apparently the same thing is happening in the book world too. Someone wants to write an autobiography, but guess what? The facts just aren’t that interesting, after all. And publishers want extraordinarily interesting personal stories that will sell well.

Monty Roberts, the so-called ‘horse whisperer’ who wrote what became a national best-seller called “The Man Who Listens to Horses” sits accused of writing reams and reams of fiction and passing it off as truth. Read another book, “Horse Whispers and Lies” by Debra Ann Ristau and Joyce Renebome, and you’ll get a whiff of the kinds and numbers of untruths that graced Mr. Roberts’ book. They are mammoth in nature.

In trying to cover his tracks, Mr. Roberts has alternately stuck by his stories, or changed certain names and events to jive with disputed facts. Some facts, for example, differ between his book published in America and the one published overseas. The disputed details surfacing in “Horse Whispers and Lies”, however, are so numerous that one must believe that the only thing true about Monty Roberts’ writings about himself are that he was born, he rode and trained horses, he had some dealings with the Queen of England and that he is now lucky enough to own a very lush horse estate/training facility.

Some people in the horse world who have become so enamored of Mr. Roberts have stated that they don’t care if everything he wrote was false, because his message about the humane treatment of horses is so valuable. This is a dangerously narrow-minded view that is detrimental to intelligent readers everywhere because it devalues the meaning of the word ‘nonfiction’ as noninvented or nonimagined subject matter.

It also sends the wrong message to children who might grow up and become writers themselves someday. It says that, in effect, lying is okay; facts and fiction are interchangeable, and absolutely everything must be overly dramatized to sell.

Jonathan Karp, a Random House editor said: “I think that nonfiction writers are doing it more and more. I was meeting a writer the other day and the writer said, ‘Hey, I invented some dialogue, is that all right?’ I said absolutely not. And the writer said ‘I really want it to be vivid, and I know these two people met. What’s the harm?’

It’s immoral, that’s the harm!

People like Monty Roberts, however, apparently don’t get it when it comes to ethics in writing. What they do get are large advances from publishing houses for authors willing to call their works ‘memoirs’ rather than fiction and heavy publicity, particularly in the form of highly coveted television interviews, which are far easier to procure when ‘true story’ is written across the cover.

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