Friday, December 02, 2011

Getting caught is the only crime.

Call me cynical if you must. But, as a lifelong fan of Leslie Charteris’s The Saint, I’m hugely amused by the scathing criticism being heaped on Quentin Rowan. His crime? Copy-pasting an entire debut spy novel, Assassin of Secrets, and getting it published by Little, Brown’s Mulholland Books under his alias Q R Markham. His “sources”, according to his own confession, were Charles McCarry, Robert Ludlum, John Gardner and Adam Hall. MediaBistro’s Galleycat has copy-pasted this now no more extant bio-sketch of the author from his British publisher’s website: “Markham has been a parks department employee, laundry-truck driver, door-to-door knife salesman, telemarketer, rock ‘n’ roll bassist, literary scout, book-reviewer, small business owner, and consultant. His writing has appeared in the Paris Review, Bomb Magazine, Witness, The New York Post, and more.” To this impressive pen portrait of a “man of many parts”, Publishers Marketplace’s News Director Sarah Weinman added the precious nugget of information of his status as a co-owner of Spoonbill & Sugartown in Williamsburg. Galleycat also gives a relevant excerpt from Rowan’s essay published in October (“9 Ways That Spy Novels Made Me A Better Bookseller”): “From the great fictional spymasters like George Smiley, I learned how to be cold in my mind: free from values and concerned with nothing but the results of an action” There’s the nub of how his mind works, if you get my drift. Now even the 5 glowing reviews of Assassin of Secrets are missing at the websites ( and Goodreads) where they were originally posted. You can find their skeletons at Google Books, although the excerpts of the novel are missing. Is all this literary snobbishness, a desire to be on par with the proverbial Caesar’s wife or what? Remember the Oprah Winfrey-James Frey fracas back in 2006? That one was about fraud and not plagiarism, be warned.