Cornwell, a prolific writer who has published 21 books in 17 years, is suing Leslie R. Sachs, an author of two books, for libel. The case went before a Virginia judge in U.S. District Court last week.
Cornwell wants a judge to prevent Sachs from writing about her on the Internet. Sachs did not appear in court and claims that he is living in Europe. He calls himself a refugee who fears for his life because of Cornwell's alleged hatred and power.
Cornwell also claims that she fears for her safety because of Sachs' writings, which call her "a Jew-hater," "a neo-Nazi," and "a felon." She said Sachs' behavior has damaged her reputation, threatened her ability to research, and stifled her creative process.
The real-life conflict began after Sachs accused Cornwall of copying his book The Virginia Ghost Murders, a paperback published in 1998. Sachs began writing publishers, placing stickers on his own book, and using the Web to criticize Cornwell after she published The Last Precinct two years later.
Cornwell won an injunction against Sachs, but Sachs continues posting accusations online. They are tied up in conspiracies that span half a century to include information about Cornwell's family life and personal ties, which Sachs claims twisted the best-selling author into a threatening individual. A psychiatrist characterized Sachs' behavior as cyberstalking.
Cornwell told a reporter last week that she believes the case illustrates a need to stop people from publishing damaging information on the Internet and going to another country to avoid prosecution.