Picks and Pans Review: The Originals

updated 07/21/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/21/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by William Amos

One of the year's most curious books is subtitled An A-Z of Fiction's Real-Life Characters, and literary junkies will have a great time flipping through its pages. The author is a British magazine editor and newspaper columnist who has collected information about the real people who inspired fictional characters—nearly 3,000 of them. For example, Gareth Brendan, the hero of Harold Robbins' Dreams Die First, was modeled on Hugh Hefner. Lewis Brogan, in Simone de Beauvoir's The Mandarins, was based on American novelist Nelson Algren, who later complained, "Hell, love letters should be private." Rhett Butler of Gone With the Wind was Margaret Mitchell's first husband, a bootlegger and merchant seaman who deserted her and "returned briefly only-it is believed—to rape her." Not all real-life inspirations turn up as human beings in the works of fiction. Rat, in Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, was a friend, Frederick James Furnivall, president of the National Amateur Rowing Association. Many of Amos' anecdotes are racy, and the book will especially fascinate those who have an interest in how writers function. (Little, Brown, $19.95)

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