Interesting article about a guy who tries to pass of the works of others as his own and gets caught. I kept thinking, If he could lift whole passages from well known writers and not be immediately called out on it, what does that say about the quality of the writing he was appropriating?
So, larger issue– the notion that authors should “fade into the background” or “avoid having a heavy authorial hand”. Misguided, I think, a call for generic (and seemingly interchangeable) prose. Writing that has a strong voice, that is immediately recognizable as the work of a specific person, asserts itself in a way that avoids ingratiation or worse, the reek of authorial supplication. An added bonus is that such writing is much harder to fob off– I suspect that anyone trying to plagiarize Cormac McCarthy or Jose Saramago wouldn’t get very far before being exposed.
The author of “Assassin of Secrets” had a secret of his own.
The author of “Assassin of Secrets” was a thirty-five-year-old début novelist with the pen name Q. R. Markham. Just before the book’s publication, in November, there were signs that it would be a hit: it had blurbs from the spy novelists Duane Swierczynski and Jeremy Duns (“instant classic”) and glowing early reviews. Kirkus pronounced it “a dazzling, deftly controlled debut,” and Publishers Weeklywrote, “The obvious Ian Fleming influence just adds to the appeal.” On the James Bond fan site commanderbond.net, someone linked to an excerpt, which the publisher, Little, Brown, had posted online, and wrote, “Anyone read this novel? I’m ordering it next month . . . it’s very Bondian.”
But, as in a thriller, no sooner had the book’s trajectory been established than it was reversed. That day, another Bond fan wrote to the thread, “Why order a copy? Just read chapter 4 of ‘License Renewed’ ”—by John Gardner, who continued the Bond series after Ian Fleming’s death. “It’s all there, the ‘matched luggage’ . . . ‘What’s it like to kill a man?’ the son et lumiere at ‘Frankie’s’ flat—entire paragraphs copied verbatim from John Gardner’s text.”