Real Living People In Novels

While real (dead) people often appear in historical novels and those with historical settings how often do real living people appear in novels?

I’ve seen plenty of times real people are mentioned in novels (ie someone seeing a movie poster with Brad Pitt for example), or characters who are thinly disguised real people. In addition is internet fiction real people do show up as lawyers are unlikely to read them.

The only ones I do know was one thriller I saw the back cover of only where Bush the Greater gets shot and wounded and Quayle has to assume the presidency and another one where Yeltsin dies in office.

Neal Stephenson tends to do this a lot. In Cryptonomicon, he had Alan Turing, Douglas MacArthur, and Göring, off the top of my head. Possibly a couple others I’m forgetting.

Well I was talking about novels that had real living people-Turing, Goring, and MacArthur were all dead when the Cryptonomicon was written.

Underworld by Delillo has Ralph Branca (who’s still alive), Bobby Thompson (who died after the novel’s publication), and Frank Sinatra (who also died after the novel was published) playing major roles. It also has J. Edgar Hoover, Lenny Bruce, and a handful of other famous 20th century men, who were all dead by the time the novel was conceived and written, but who have major fictionalized roles in the narrative.

The (universally panned by critics and mostly ignored by readers) sequel to Forrest Gump, Gump & Co., did this with literary cameos by Tom Hanks and others associated with the movie. (It was to match the tone of the movie, which was way different from the tone of the original novel Forrest Gump.)

Tom Wolfe’s novel A Man in Full had scenes that included some notable real life and (at least at the time) living Atlanta residents, but none were important to the plot, just name dropping.

Kurt Vonnegut inserted himself into several of his novels.

Really? Who? I’ve read the book three times - it’s one of my favorite books. I never knew any of the characters in it, even the most minor ones, were real people.

Robert Coover’s The Public Burning had Richard Nixon (still alive at the time) as one of the main characters.

Replay by Ken Grimwood has one of the characters married to Dustin Hoffman in an alternate timeline, and also mentions Steven Speilberg.

On stage, Red, White, and Maddox had Georgia Governor Lester Maddox as the lead character and ridiculed him mercilessly.

Prince Harry is a major character in the science fiction/alternate history Axis of Time series.

I’m surprised no one has mentioned Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella (adapted to film as Field of Dreams), where one of the major characters is J.D. Salinger. Maybe because that was changed for the film?

Howard Chaykin’s American Flagg! comics had Prince William as one of the characters, though since it was set in the future, he had aged.

In American Psycho, there are several scenes where Patrick Bateman (the narrator) encounters famous people, including Tom Cruise, Bono, and some others I can’t remember.

Philip Roth has included himself in some of his books as well as other living historic figures. He also included his family, however I don’t know if this was a made up family or he included real names. The Plot Against America has the Roth family in an alternate 1940s.

Prince William was also a character in S.M. Stirling’s Emberverse series.

Frederick Forsyth has frequently featured well-known living people in his novels. In Icon, Prince Michael of Kent had a prominent, if brief role. The Dogs of War features Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu in several chapters, and Charles deGaulle has a part in The Day of the Jackal. Interestingly, while deGaulle is mentioned by name, the other two are referred to only as “the English prince” and “the general”. Forsyth may have feared legal or political ramifications from naming them specifically, but he left no doubt about who he was portraying.

James Michener talked some about the difficulties inherent in naming living people in a novel - at least for an American author. When an author does this, he is setting himself up for a lawsuit from people that consider their name to be intellectual property. If someone does not like the way he/she is portrayed a suit for libel or defamation can cost a writer, or more likely the publisher a lot of money. Michener, in writing his novel Space had included some kind of skulduggery by the “junior senator from Texas”. Since that person was still alive, the publisher adamantly refused to print that part of the book until Michener re-wrote it substituting the fictional state of Franklin and a non-existant politician.

Jim Williams from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil died in 1990 and the book was published in 1994.

But apparently The Lady Chablis is a real person and still alive.

Stephen King’s The Dead Zone briefly features Jimmy Carter and mentions Sargent Shriver in passing, during the 1976 primaries.

Except that wasn’t a novel.

Well… it’s not billed as a novel. It’s highly fictionalized- Berendt inserts himself into may scenes where he never actually appeared, including the first scene. (He never even met Jim Williams until after the murder, for instance.)
However, I don’t think anybody in the book was famous other than for the book (except Uga, of course).

Honestly, I can’t remember at the moment, but when I was reading it the first time I remember noting “Ah, he’s real”. It was a scene where Croker goes to a fundraiser for the High Museum and somebody speaks to him, references to a couple of prominent attorneys and the like- again, none are characters so much as name dropping, just like the place names. (He also uses names from the Atlanta area for character names, though ‘Inman’ is one of the only ones I remember off hand [the patrician whose daughter was allegedly raped by the football player, is clearly taken from Inman Park).

In the first Jack Ryan novel, Patriot Games, Tom Clancy has Ryan interact with the Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, and the Prince of Wales.

King includes himself as a character in some of the Dark Tower books.