And worse, it’s not even a terribly good (or well-written) book! Steal This Book
The co-authors of a 1982 work of nonfiction, “Holy Blood, Holy Grail,” are suing the novelist Dan Brown, author of “The Da Vinci Code,” for breach of copyright. They charge that Mr. Brown’s novel stole their hypothesis — which, in case you’ve been holed away for the past few years rereading Proust, is that Jesus and Mary Magdalene married, and a shadowy group called the Priory of Sion has protected their descendants over the centuries, fending off dark, contending forces inside the Vatican.
But what those in that London courtroom seem not to realize is that the novel has always been a confidence game. Early in the 18th century, the English novel came into being when a sometime jailbird gulled his readers with the counterfeit memoir of a certain Robinson Crusoe. Across the Channel, plenty of readers took narratives like “Manon Lescaut,” by the Abbé Provost, a convicted forger, as the historical accounts they pretended to be. No surprise that our ancestors’ mischief has lingered in the literary bloodline, especially when it comes to fiction masquerading as history.
“Writers have to avoid taking material from other writers,” one of the plaintiffs, Michael Baigent, has declared, unappeased by the fact that Mr. Brown’s book makes explicit reference to his. “It’s part of the deal, really.”
Tell that to the author of “A Tale of Two Cities,” who not only boasted of having read Thomas Carlyle’s history of the French Revolution hundreds of times but also credited it with having “inspired me with the general fancy of that story.”