I bear a fairly common name. Not as common as, say, "John Smith" of course. But my first name is likely shared by millions of people, including a certain member of Britain's Royal Family. And my surname (along with its variant, "Sanders") is far from unusual. So I'm not surprised to have become aware of several men who have my first and last names.
One of those other Charles Saunderses is a musician who was a member of the late Gil Scott-Heron's band. Coincidentally, I knew Gil Scott-Heron when we attended the same university during the 1960s. But I never met my namesake musician.
Another namesake to reckon with is Charles E. Saunders, a Canadian agronomist who developed the Marquis strain of wheat during the early years of the 20th century. The hardiness of that strain revolutionized agriculture in Canada's Prairie provinces, and earned him great renown, including a knighthood.
Only once (that I know of) has my name become a source of mistaken identity. This instance was connected with my mercifully brief experience as a screenwriter in the mid-1980s. That experience resulted in two direct-to-video sword-and-sorcery movies: Amazons (1986) and Stormquest (1987). I adapted the script for Amazons from my short story, "Agbewe's Sword," which appeared in Jessica Amanda Salmonson's groundbreaking anthology, Amazons!, in the late 1970s. Stormquest was based on a concept developed by Argentine film director Alex Sessa, who had also helmed Amazons.
Those films are not exactly the crown jewels of my curriculum vita. I was a novice at the craft of screenwriting, and my lack of experience showed rather painfully. Ultimately, I decided that I'd be better off pursuing the solitary process of fiction-writing.
Years later, while surfing online, I came across the International Movie Data Base (IMDB). For the heck of it, I looked up Amazons and Stormquest. My name was duly credited as the writer for both films. However, upon clicking my name for links to further information, I beheld a face and biographical information that were not mine.
This particular Charles Saunders was an older British gentleman who'd had a long and distinguished career as a writer and director in both movies and television. In researching his background, I learned that he was born in 1904 and lived to a ripe old age, passing away in 1997. As of 1962, he had retired from the entertainment industry.
Upon discovering that clear instance of mistaken identity, my first impulse was to contact the IMDB and attempt to set the record straight. But I never got around to doing so. As it was, neither of those movies became a hit. The few reviews they received were almost unanimously negative. In the end, I considered my big fling with Tinseltown something that needed to be forgotten. So I let the mistake stand, even though it led to confusion.
In the meantime, someone else must have decided that the British Charles Saunders should not be associated with Amazons and Stormquest. Neither movie is listed in his filmography -- at least not the one on Wikipedia. And if you look them up on the IMDB, you'll find that "Charles Saunders" is still listed as the writer -- but the name does not link to either me or my namesake.
And that's a fitting enough conclusion to this strange case of mistaken identity