Today I have been reading about an astounding example of plagiarism by Quentin Rowan, writing as Q.R. Markham. His novel, Assassin of Secrets, did not merely plagiarize one source but stole from many sources.
I came across the story in John's blog Pretty Sinister Books and thank him for a post about plagiarism of which I was unaware.
It was striking to read Edward Cameron's post exposing the depths of the plagiarism.
Lastly, it was hard to read Jeremy Duns on the pain of being duped.
A few years ago I read a book called The Spinster and the Prophet. A single Toronto woman wrote a history of the world during WW I. It was sent to a publisher and rejected. Subsequently H.G. Wells wrote his own history of the world. It was clear from her subsequent unsuccessful court case that Wells engaged in literary theft but the establishment of the time was not interested in having such a prominent author exposed.
I had thought it would be much harder for a "Wells" of today to achieve such a theft but after reading of Rowan's deception am less certain.
It appears to me Rowan was partially successful because he was so brazen who would expect such blatant thievery.
In an interview with The New York Daily News he revealed his motivation for writing the book:
Rowan was frank about his intention to for the money.
With the economy so bad, there's no room for a writer to worry
about selling out, he said. "People who were writing thoughtful
short stories about suburban malaise are now writing vampire
Everyone who writes is inspired by others. Fortunately most authors use their own imagination to develop their ideas into fiction of their own.
His circumstances are far different from the lawsuit by the authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail suing Random House that The Da Vinci Code infringed their copyright. The trial decision clearly set out there may have been use of ideas but there was no infringement and the ideas were not new. As well Dan Brown listed The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail as a source. The authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail underwent a painful cross-examination about their sources. What was most unique about the judgment was the embedding of a message by the judge in code in his judgment.
The Court of Appeal, while not amused by the trial judge's code found no merit in the appeal. They unanimously dismissed the appeal in their judgment.
In the appeal judgment Lord Justice Lloyd provided a definition of copyright:
Copyright does not subsist in ideas; it protects the expression of
ideas, not the ideas themselves. No clear principle is or could be
laid down in the cases in order to tell whether what is sought to be
protected is on the ideas side of the dividing line, or on the
There is no "gray" about Rowan, a Brooklyn bookseller. He was a carefully calculating plagiarist whose actions have been justly condemned by most commentators. He deserves to be remembered as a thief.
- Bill Selnes
- Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
- I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.