Friday, December 16, 2011

Lawrence Block on Lenore Hart

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.

7 comments:

  1. What poetic justice if Lawrence Block, a three-time Edgar Allan Poe Award winner, delivers the coup de grâce to this pathetic affair.

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  2. That's amazing. Many thanks indeed to Mr. Block for weighing in on this whole mess.

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  3. Did you see this poem from Ross M, a comment on Lenore Hart's book's Amazon Page?

    Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
    Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore -
    While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a typing,
    As of some one plagiarizing, purloining from a text of yore.
    "'Tis only O'Neal," I muttered, "inspiration's such a chore -
    And no one reads him anymore."

    He ends it: "From 'The Magpie' (c) 2011 by Lenore Hart"!

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  4. I've been following this since Jeremy Duns first blogged about it and have been wondering if and how it would percolate outside the blogosphere and Twitter, and into other media. Since St Martin's statement, there's not been much at all. Unfortunately, the latest I've come across demonstrates the same lack of critical thinking and probity of Hart, her publisher and her faculty.

    Lee Duran, 'book columnist' for the The Joplin Globe, agrees with St Martin's Press.

    It's likely she didn't bother to think or research beyond the SMP statement. She writes that 'St. Martin's checked out similarities', but this doesn't represent what St Martin's did at all. Nowhere have they said that they 'checked out similarities'. All they said they did was read Hart's 'response' on why her novel shared similarities with another novel and accepted it. There's nothing in their statement about them independently comparing O'Neal's book with Hart's. Isn't it obvious you don't judge plagiarism by a secondary resource, especially when it's written by the same person you're investigating? Not so, apparently.

    Duran's ignorance of this case and the link between research and plagiarism continues.

    Duran: 'Historical research really is limited, in many cases. Seems to me that if the same information surfaces, it’s not too extraordinary that there could be some similarities in the result.'

    In which case, Hart's imagination really is limited, too. Her book shares many copied phrases from O'Neal's; some of the same fictional events that never occured in history as O'Neal's; and paragraphs that share the same sequence of notable words as O'Neal's. Now that is extraordinary.

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  5. Hart, Hari and Markham/Rowan make the top 5 in the 'Best of 2011 Plagiarism Events' on iThenticate.com, 'the leading provider of professional plagiarism detection and prevention technology'.

    The writer thinks the Hart story will continue in 2012 'as St Martin's Press takes a look at her other work and determines whether their stance remains the same'. That's a fascinating thing to say. Have iThenticate parsed 'her other work' through their software and seen even more plagiarism?

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  6. Anyone notice Lenore Hart has posted her "FIVE NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS FOR WRITERS" on her facebook?

    I think she's missing one.

    1) Make writing as important as your job -- because that's what it is: Work, not a hobby.
    2) Set realistic goals to avoid avoidance. Fifty words a day, not 50 pages. Or maybe 1 double-spaced page a day? Just 250 words, a modest-length memo. Yet in a year that adds up to the first draft of a 365 page novel or memoir.
    3) DON'T send said first draft out to anyone. Sure, you're excited to have made it this far, but it's not ready to be seen. Don't ruin your chances before you get started. REVISE, REVISE, REVISE. 4) Write for the right reasons. These are not "to get rich" (good luck with that) or simply to be an author. Writing is hard work -- you really gotta love DOING it to keep going.
    5) Be the biggest critical of your own work AFTER you have a complete draft. But when you reach a goal, like finishing a carefully-revised story or chapter -- REWARD yourself. Positive reinforcement works -- and keeps the Muse coming back!

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