Thursday, November 10, 2011

Plagiarism For Idiots

For those who haven't heard, Little Brown recently recalled a book titled, Assassin Of Secrets once it was discovered that the author (who is using the pseudonym Q.R. Markham) plagiarized several passages from other published novels. Now whenever I hear cries of plagiarism I always approach the complaint with skepticism. For instance, if I wrote the sentence: "Her heart caught in her throat as she watched him walk away," and it was later discovered that an author (or several authors) had written that same sentence I could rightfully be accused of unoriginality but calling it plagiarism would be a step too far. Using clich├ęs is never a great idea but it's not an act of theft. 

But this guy used sentences like this:
Then he saw her, behind the fountain, a small light, dim but growing to illuminate her as she stood naked but for a thin, translucent nightdress; her hair undone and falling to her waist—hair and the thin material moving and blowing as though caught in a silent zephyr.
Which just happens to be the exact same sentence used in a James Bond novel titled License Renewed penned by author John Gardner. It's hard to argue that's coincidence. "The thin material moving and blowing as though caught in a silent zephyr," just isn't a phrase people go around saying. 

When I heard this my first thought was not, How could Markham do this?! No, it was What an idiot. I mean, really? Not only are you going to plagiarize but you're going to plagiarize by lifting the most descriptive sentences you can find from a James Bond novel??? If he had plagiarized from a stand-alone backlist novel from a little known author that would have been bad and, thanks to the internet, he probably would have been caught but at least he wouldn't have been caught right away! Perhaps Markham is unaware of this but lots of people like James Bond! Particularly people who might buy a novel titled Assassin Of Secrets! He also plagiarized from bestselling author James Bamford. Once again, "Bestselling" is the key word here. In the incredibly unlikely case that some of you are as dim as Markham allow me to explain that, "bestselling" means that Bamford's books have been read by a lot of people

This is kind of like robbing a bank filled with security cameras without so much as a ski mask. You might be able to do it but you're obviously not going to get away with it.

And what's really sad is that Little Brown published 6,500 copies of Assassin Of Secrets. All that work stealing other people's words and it didn't even earn him a decent print run. 

There are so many lessons one could take away from this. Don't plagiarize, be honest, don't cut corners and so on.

But really, if you are only going to learn just one thing from this let it be this: Stupid people shouldn't commit crimes. It just works out badly for everyone. 

Kyra "Fashionista Fatale" Davis


Diane Kelly said...

I don't get why a writer would want to copy someone else. The creative process is such a blast!

catslady said...

Great post - it is amazing how stupid (or is it arrogant) some people can be.

kyradavis said...

It is, isn't it? And think about the work this guy put into this. He would have had to be flipping through books after every few pages of writing trying to find the phrase he wanted to steal. It would be like writing a research paper for college (minus the footnotes or reference pages). As Diane pointed out, that's nowhere near as fun as engaging in the creative process.