It is increasingly clear to me that St Martin's Press believes that if they simply ignore anyone who informs them that Lenore Hart is a plagiarist, the issue will gradually fade away. This is incredibly arrogant, highly irresponsible - and extremely frustrating. As explained elsewhere, this is not a borderline case or a grey area. The Raven's Bride blatantly plagiarizes an earlier novel, The Very Young Mrs Poe by Cothburn O'Neal. Hart followed many passages in O'Neal's novel sentence by sentence, sometimes tweaking a few words or changing the order around, but at other times repeating his sentences word for word. Please see my last two posts for many examples, including in the comments and at other blogs. This is brazen and extensive plagiarism.
And yet, despite this having being covered by the Associated Press, The Guardian, and The New York Times, St Martin's have continued to insist that black is white, and claimed that Lenore Hart is not a plagiarist. With a straight face. The idea that dozens of scenes are identical in theme, precise incidents and language is because Hart was working from 'the same limited historical record' is blown apart by the fact she copied many phrases and even sentences word for word from O'Neal's novel, with no quote marks or citations, and that O'Neal made several very specific historical errors, which Hart repeated verbatim. It is also obvious that St Martin's only made their weaselly statement at all because this was written about in the press. They were informed of this by others before me, once in April and again in May by someone else, and they ignored both of them. Now they are ignoring me, and anyone else who points this out.
So who couldn't they ignore, I wondered to myself earlier today. And then it hit me. Lawrence Block.
At 73, Block is a legendary figure, one of the great crime novelists of our age. And last month, he was the moderator of a panel at the Mysterious Bookshop in New York titled 'The New Faces Of Suspense'. One of these new faces was Q.R. Markham - Quentin Rowan. When it was revealed soon after that Rowan had plagiarized his novel, Assassin of Secrets, Block took the unusual step of writing an Amazon review for it, in which he made his feelings clear:
'There are plenty of good sentences in this book, but they're all the work of other writers. The author must be seriously disturbed; he quite deliberately stole everything in the book. And no, it's not an homage, not a tribute album. It's theft, and quite transparent; it should be off-sale by now, but it may take Amazon a while to take it down. The author, it turns out, has made a habit of this sort of thing throughout his "career." Let us not encourage him.'
Remembering this a few hours ago, I contacted Lawrence Block and informed him of Lenore Hart and The Raven's Bride, providing him with some links and asking him to make a statement about it in the hope that it would make a difference and help resolve this. 'Lawrence Block condemns Lenore Hart' is, I think, news that would be impossible for St Martin's Press to ignore.
And here's his reply to me, which I have just received:
'Jeremy, thanks for this. I had indeed followed your blog in connection with the Quentin Rowan debacle. I can't say I was taken in by him, as I just had a quick glance at his book before the panel on which we both appeared, read enough to know it wasn't anything I wanted to read more of, and at the event itself found him sort of an odd duck; we didn't really connect. When it all went pear-shaped a couple of days later, I was surprised and dismayed, but heartened by our mutual publisher's quick withdrawal of the book.
I can't imagine why St. Martin's doesn't do the same. What this woman has done, clearly, is sit down with a book and rewrite it. That's marginally acceptable when you're writing a term paper for a high school history class, but rather less so when you're foisting a novel upon the public.'
Thank you, Mr Block. And, indeed, that is precisely what Lenore Hart has done. Can some enterprising journalist or 16 now run an article on this, and hopefully bring this affair, finally, to an end? Because I don't have Lady Gaga's email address, and I have a book I need to finish.