Thriller Author Allan Leverone: Why Plagiarize?

Welcome author Allan Leverone on today! 

He is a three-time Derringer Award finalist and a 2011 Pushcart Prize nominee for his short fiction. He is the author of the thrillers, FINAL VECTOR (Medallion Press, 2011) and THE LONELY MILE (StoneHouse Ink, 2011), and the horror novella DARKNESS FALLS (Delirium Books, 2011).

His third thriller, a paranormal suspense novel titled PASKAGANKEE is coming soon from StoneGate Ink, and a second Delirium Books horror novella, titled HEARTLESS, will be released in January, 2012. Allan lives in Londonderry, NH with his wife of nearly thirty years, three children, one beautiful granddaughter and a cat who has used up eight lives. Learn more at www.allanleverone.com, on Facebook or on Twitter (@AllanLeverone).

Allan delves into the world of plagiarism in his article, a timely topic and more common than we think.

Steal This Post
By Allan Leverone

I’m an author. I’m also a writer, which might seem self-evident at first glance, although it really isn’t. If you’ve published work you’re hoping to convince people to read, you’re an author. If you’ve put words down on paper, you’re a writer.

It’s possible to be one without being the other; lots of people are. In most of those cases, people are writers without being authors, either by choice or because they haven’t found the right outlet for their work.

Unfortunately, though, a case recently in the news illustrates the opposite possibility—being an author without being a writer—perfectly. Maybe you read about it. Q.R. Markham, the pen name of debut author Quentin Rowan, was busted for plagiarizing entire passages, some of them several paragraphs in length, and inserting them into his novel, ASSASSIN OF SECRETS.

I’ve written about the subject once already, in my blog, A Thrill a Minute, where I made my feelings about plagiarism pretty clear, I think. It’s despicable, it’s wrong, it’s lazy. And it’s stealing. Plagiarizing someone else’s content is no different than reaching into their wallet and taking cash out of it, then sliding it into your own pocket with your own sticky fingers.

So I’m not going to rehash the subject here; what I really wanted to talk about today was the question that’s been bothering me since I read the Q.R. Markham story: Why plagiarize? Why take the risk of being exposed, as Quentin Rowan did, by stealing not just from one source, but from as many as thirteen separate sources?

Undoubtedly you can recall a kid in school who plagiarized material for a report or a research paper; hell, maybe you were that kid. But there’s a world of difference between a teenager trying to scrape out a passing grade in Civics class and a supposedly professional novelist having so little regard for his readers and the writer he’s stealing from that he’s willing to roll the dice and hope no one notices his thievery.

So, again, why? Is it laziness?

That doesn’t seem likely, especially for a fiction writer. True, almost every novelist has to do research on almost every book, but the amount of effort it would require to read through dozens of novels to find passages appropriate to the story, as Quentin Rowan seems to have done, must be far greater in total than the effort it would take to simply write the story.

Is it an inability to write well?

That seems the most likely possibility to me. Not everyone is gifted with the ability to construct a well-told tale, just as not everyone can run the hundred yard dash in ten seconds and not everyone can perform brain surgery. The aptitude is simply not there.

But how does someone with the inability to write at a high level get to the point where they’ve jumped through all the necessary hoops to acquire a literary agent, sell their book and work with an editor, all without being discovered? And more to the point, why? If you can’t write well, most of the time the interest in writing will not be there, don’t you think?

Is it for the name-recognition? To become famous?

That’s hard to imagine, because the percentage of fiction writers who rise above the odds to become household names is abysmally low. Even after the book is published, the chances of any single author becoming well-known because of his or her work are so slim as to be laughable. And besides, there are other methods of becoming famous that are much more likely to be successful than to write a novel. Marry a Kardashian, star in a stupid TV reality series, or some combination of the two; you get the idea.

Seriously, though, why? Maybe you have some ideas on the subject, because I quite simply cannot fathom it.

The worst part? The Q.R. Markham/Quentin Rowan case doesn’t seem to be an isolated incident. Allegations were made months ago about another case of plagiarism involving a novelist too lazy or too uninvolved or too untalented to write her own work. THE RAVEN’S BRIDE, written by Lenore Hart and published in 2011 by St. Martin’s Press, bears more than a passing resemblance—okay, is practically an exact copy in dozens of passages—to a 1956 novel titled THE VERY YOUNG MRS. POE, by Cothburn O’Neal, as related by novelist Jeremy Duns in his blog, The Debrief.

Ms Hart’s thievery seems to have been a little better disguised than Quentin Markham’s, and her material was stolen from a relatively obscure book published almost a half-century ago, but it seems patently obvious to me she stole work that didn’t belong to her. You can decide for yourself in the post and subsequent comments at The Debrief, if you’re so inclined.

Lenore Hart is no rookie, either, she’s “a well-established and well-respected novelist,” according to Duns. An Amazon search of her name reveals a half-dozen separate novels attributed to her, not including any she may have written under a pseudonym.

So why would she do it? Any ideas? Because I’m baffled.

And here’s the other question: How many other supposedly original books floating around out there are in fact nothing more than blatantly plagiarized rip-offs of other people’s work, perpetrated by lazy or talentless or just plain arrogant hacks?


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12 Comments

Filed under Authors, Writing Resources

12 responses to “Thriller Author Allan Leverone: Why Plagiarize?

  1. Thanks very much for having me today, Donna, and I love the timing – who wouldn’t want to steal stuff on Cyber Monday?

  2. Allan, great to have you on- and yes, let’s see who steals this on Cyber Monday! You make some great points and questions raised here.

  3. Well written post, and I agree on all points. I think that in addition to the hard work that is required for being a writer, and the hours of laboring with words to hone one’s craft, one other thing is essential: integrity. I don’t know how anyone could be proud of, or live with, work that they’ve acquired through some form of literary kleptomania.

  4. I don’t understand it either, Alchemist, but if you read through the exchange at Jeremy Duns’s blog between Duns – who was fleeced by Rowan into providing an author blurb for ASSASSIN OF SECRETS – and Rowan, what you get is a pretty fascinating look into the mind of a plagiarist. Lenore Hart, on the other hand, seems to have adopted the politician’s creed – deny, deny, deny – despite the fact that portions of her book were plainly lifted straight out of Cothburn O’Neal’s 1956 novel.

  5. Great blog, Allan.

    It’s hard enough to write a novel without having to sew other people’s work together. That makes me think that there was some psychological condition at work, because he was asking to get caught.

    I wonder if we’ll see more of this type of thing now the we live in a ‘copy and paste’ world.

  6. That was a great guest post! This is a sad commentary on the lack of creativity by some writers. I am not a writer, just a bookworm who loves to share my passion with other readers, so I write book reviews on my blog site, and I recently found out that someone had used my wording from a book review that I published a month ago on their review that they published last night. They had the nerve enough to say it was “coincidence” when I questioned them about using my review as theirs. Where is the honesty, creativity and ethics … so disheartening. *sigh*

    • Kathleen, nice to meet you! (from one who lived in NJ for years and loved it!) But it is troubling to hear that this has affected you from a book reviewer’s stand point. Some people want to honestly work hard and others skim off those doing the tough work. To think positive about it, your review must have been wonderfully written for someone to steal it! 😉

  7. Hi Donna! Thank you for the kind words, I guess I should be honored that someone liked my review enough to copy it … well they just barely tweaked it … lol

    I am now following you, and thank you for liking my FB page! 🙂

  8. Chris, that was my exact thought when I read the story about Quentin Rowan. When you think about it, stitching parts of thirteen different novels together to form even a semi-coherent story probably took way more work and creativity than I’m capable of. If it weren’t for the small matter of, you know, stealing, it would actually be kind of impressive…

  9. Kathleen, Donna’s right – plagiarizing your work is kind of a compliment. What would have been better is if the reviewer had simply given you credit for your words, but it seems there are plenty of people out there who can’t or won’t grasp the concept that stealing is stealing, whether you’re talking about physical property or intellectual property.

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