November 10th, 2011


Author of Secrets

Here's a fascinating case of plagiarism:

Assiduous sleuthing by James Bond fans has forced QR Markham's newly published spy thriller Assassin of Secrets to be pulled from shelves after it was discovered that it was lifted almost wholesale from an amalgamation of other novels, including 007 titles.

The novel by QR Markham – an alias for Brooklyn bookseller and poet Quentin Rowan – was published last week in the US and was due out this week in the UK. The story of "top operative" Jonathan Chase, who will "protect and serve his country at all costs" as he battles "shadowy organisation" the Zero Directorate who are "kidnapping, interrogating and murdering spies", it had reaped a host of pre-publication praise, described as an "instant classic [which] takes on the greatest spy thrillers of the cold war and doesn't just hold its own, but wins" by the author Jeremy Duns, and given a starred review from US book bible Kirkus, which described it as "a dazzling, deftly controlled debut that moves through familiar territory with wry sophistication".

The territory, alas, turned out to be all too familiar, and after the plagiarism was uncovered by online commenters on a James Bond forum, Assassin of Secrets was withdrawn from sale in the US – its American publisher Little, Brown is offering a refund to customers who bought it – while its UK publisher Hodder & Stoughton is also pulling the novel, saying in a statement this morning:

"We take copyright issues very seriously, as we do all aspects of the publishing process. We deeply regret having acquired a book for our list that we can no longer accept as an original work, and in partnership with Little, Brown we have acted immediately to recall the book from distributors and retailers."

Rowan not only stole from one author, but from John Gardner, Charles McCarry, Raymond Benson, Robert Ludlum and more, at one point in time lifting up to six pages straight for his own book!

He didn't even steal from just one book, either!

Over here is a side by side comparison of lifts for the first 30 pages:

Markham, Page 13: “His step had an unusual silence to it. It was late morning in October of the year 1968 and the warm, still air had turned heavy with moisture, causing others in the long hallway to walk with a slow shuffle, a sort of somber march.”

Taken from Page 1 of James Bamford’s Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency: “His step had an unusual urgency to it. Not fast, but anxious, like a child heading out to recess who had been warned not to run. It was late morning and the warm, still air had turned heavy with moisture, causing others on the long hallway to walk with a slow shuffle, a sort of somber march.”

It's a pretty amazing thing that has, really, killed the career of the author--though of course, since he wasn't actually writing his work, it's not much a career to lose--and adds another embarrassment to Little, Big, who got caught out a few years back with a chic lit novel.

I have to be honest, I had to stop myself from buying a copy of the novel when I discovered the story, simply because of the curiosity factor, and I was helped a little in this by the fact that sales of the book have already gone up quite a bit since the story broke. It's inevitable, I guess, but unfortunately, it lets the publisher break even, or make a profit, on what is their own real fault for not employing well read editors with a deep knowledge of the genre.

Perhaps the James Bond forums out to sell their services?