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Red Hat plaintiff: SuSu based on me
Lawsuit accuses author of defaming lifelong friend in popular book
Vickie Stewart

I-985 project nears completion

By: Jeff Gill

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When Vickie Stewart purchased two copies of “The Red Hat Club” directly from the book’s author, Haywood Smith, after a baby shower in 2004, she didn’t intend to read it.

But, as Stewart testified in a Hall County courtroom Wednesday, when she happened to pick up the book late one evening, she was struck with the similarities between herself and one of the fictional book’s characters, “SuSu,” she said.

“I knew who she was,” Stewart said. “It felt like somebody had knocked the wind out of me.”

Stewart said she then started flipping through the pages of “The Red Hat Club,” searching for any passages that mentioned “SuSu.”

“I kept thinking, ‘Why? Why did she do this to me?,’” Stewart said

Gray-haired ladies from Stewart’s bridge club also testified one-by-one on Stewart’s behalf Wednesday that they, too, recognized their Stewart when they read “The Red Hat Club.”

Stewart is suing Smith and the company that published “The Red Hat Club” in Hall County State Court, claiming the writer defamed Stewart and invaded her privacy by modeling the “SuSu” character on Stewart’s life experiences. The two women are nearly lifelong acquaintances.

Stewart’s attorneys attempted to demonstrate more than 30 similarities between their client and the “SuSu” character Wednesday: both had a face-lift, both had husbands who were killed in car accidents and both put out “Wanted” advertisements in a newspaper when their second husband fled the state to keep from paying a divorce settlement.

But “SuSu” is also depicted as a sexually promiscuous alcoholic who has encounters with her friends’ husbands. Stewart’s lawyers say it is difficult to tell fact from fiction in Smith’s book, and that Stewart’s reputation was hurt by the depiction.

But Stewart’s friends who testified that they recognized Stewart in the book Wednesday morning said the book did not change their opinion of her. Reading the book did not make them think she was sexually promiscuous or an alcoholic who would engage in lewd behavior in public, they said.

Still, Stewart, who took the stand in the second day of the trial Wednesday, testified that she was hurt by the book.

When questioned by Smith’s lawyers about whether she had given Smith permission to write about her life experiences, Stewart said she hadn’t. Smith’s attorney Peter Canfield, however, said that in earlier interviews Stewart said she did not recall a conversation where she had given Smith such permission.

But Stewart said there was not a difference between the two answers.

“I’m telling you that she didn’t have permission,” she said.

The trial continues today in Hall County State Court as Stewart’s attorneys plan to call their final witnesses.