November 18, 2011

Another stupefyingly ballsy case of plagiarism elicits calls for another book to be withdrawn


Spy novelist Jeremy Duns has been showing up on lots of blogs lately — including ours — for his fascinating posts about plagiarist QR Markham/Quentin Rowan. Of course, as he himself observes, everyone has been blogging about QR Markham/Quentin Rowan. But yesterday, Duns blogged about another plagiarist nobody blogged about, and who thus seems to have gotten off clean: Leonore Hart, who’s novel last spring about Edgar Allan Poe, Raven’s Bride, by several accounts borrowed heavily from a now-forgotten 1956 novel by Cothburn O’Neal called The Very Young Mrs. Poe.

Inspired by a post at a Poe fan site called The World of Edgar Allan Poe that detailed the theft — to a degree that makes it, as these things always are, absolutely dumbfounding — Duns wonders “Why should Quentin Rowan be exposed, and someone else — if they are a plagiarist — not be, simply because nobody bothered to google it to follow up?”

Further, as Duns goes on to note, it’s not exactly as if Hart — “well-established and well-respected novelist, published by St Martin’s Press” — hadn’t been asked to confront the charges. “The allegations on that blog were drawn to her attention several months ago, and she wrote an astonishing and utterly bonkers 18,000-word response, arguing why all the similarities noted between her novel The Raven’s Bride and the 1956 novel The Very Young Mrs. Poe by Cothburn O’Neal were all perfectly explainable and not at all due to rampant plagiarism on her behalf.”

Well, says Dun, “Her defence is as unconvincing as it is prolix,” and he means to do something about it. He announces a campaign to have the book withdrawn from publication, explaining that

I’m hoping to shine some more light on it in this post and, knowing that some bloggers and journalists may now be reading this blog because of the Rowan stuff, am leaving it up to you lot. Search, and you will find incontrovertible proof that Lenore Hart is a plagiarist. She has written quite a lot, including under pseudonyms, and I suspect some of that work may be plagiarized as well. But even if not, The Raven’s Bride most definitely is, and St Martin’s should withdraw it, just as Little, Brown responsibly did with Assassin of Secrets when it was brought to their attention.

As part of that light-shining, he also notes an interviewthe author gave to Bookslut, “in which she is shameless enough to be condescending about the novel from which she stole.” In a hilarious observation of her own, Bookslut proprietor Jessa Crispin calls it “as good a tactic as any.”

And Crispin continues to make what may be the most trenchant observation of them all: “But however many of these cases are revealed — and it’s telling that both writers [Rowan and Hart] are, or were supposed to be, machines of productivity, spilling out book after book in quick succession for various series — it’ll be disappointing never to receive an explanation that will satisfy. ‘I fucked up,’ might be honest but it’s so disappointing to hear.”

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives