Yesterday, the case by two of the three authors of ‘The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail’ against Random House, their publishers, alleging plagiarism in the novel ‘The Da Vinci Code’ (coincidentally published by the same people) was thrown out. The Judge, apparently, said there was no obvious or solid plot in HBHG which had been lifted for DVC.
That’s fairly accurate, I’d say, as – and yes, I have read both books – HBHG purports to be a work of historical investigation and revelation, and DVC purports to be a thriller. Neither is at all successful, to my mind – the ‘non-fiction’ book is highly spurious, its research and methods most definitely built upon a pyramid of sand and far too reliant on ‘is it not possible that..?’ thinking as opposed to ‘therefore it seems almost conclusive that…’, and the DVC is full of inaccuracies (the frontispage claims it’s accurate, when it simply isn’t), poor pacing (characters stop for long expositional chats when they’re being pursued by killers), and staggeringly bad dialogue and writing generally.
So I was faintly perplexed as to why the authors of HBHG would want to claim there’d been some lifting, as the ‘facts’ that appear to have been lifted have been pretty well debunked over the years (the Priory of Sion, for instance, is generally held to be a hoax created by Pierre Plantard and French journalists in the 1960s and 1970s). So if I’d been the authors of the book, I would have kept quiet about it – sure, they’ll get some sales out of it, but the association with Dan Brown’s inexplicably popular novel is certainly not going to be good for them in the long-term, and certainly won’t do their already in-question historian credentials much good.
A nice comment on it from Howard Jacobson in one of the papers today: “Charging Dan Brown with plagiarising your work is like arguing with the referee for not crediting you with an own-goal. There are some things you should be pleased to see another person get the plaudits for.” Very true.
And oddly enough, the report on the case in yesterday’s Evening Standard referred to Brown as the world’s richest author, which seems a bit of a speedy rise; I thought that Jackie Collins or Stephen King (or even the more recent Joanne Rowling) would be more likely to hold that position? I’m ready to be corrected, but I’m similarly ready to pit my gut feeling about this against the Evening Standard’s fact-checking skills.
*Oh, stop wincing, we both know you wish you’d thought of this first.