Yet another plagiarism case has popped up, this time concerning uncanny similarities between Lenore Hart’s 2011 novel The Raven’s Bride and Cothburn O’Neal’s 1956 novel The Very Young Mrs. Poe. Both novels deal with Virginia Clemm, cousin and teenaged bride of Edgar Allan Poe.
Suspense writer Jeremy Duns, whom we already know from the Q.R. Markham plagiarism affair, weighs in here with further examples and quotes from a apologia by Ms. Hart.
The Guardian also reports on the case and on Ms. Hart’s explanations that she and Cothburn O’Neal both used the same sources. This sort of thing can indeed happen to writers of historical fiction. For example, I based the garrotting scene in El Carnicero on an eye witness account of a garrotting by American journalist Richard Ford in his Gatherings from Spain. Some time later, I read the 1951 novel Goya oder Der arge Weg der Erkenntnis (English title: This is the Hour) by German historical novelist Lion Feuchtwanger and came across a very familiar garrotting scene. Yes, it turned out that Feuchtwanger had used the same eye witness account as source material (not surprising, since there aren’t a whole lot of eye witness accounts of garrottings and even fewer in English). However, there is a difference here, because I did not copy Richard Ford’s account verbatim and neither did Feuchtwanger. Because even if two writers of historical fiction copy verbatim from the same source independently from each other, it’s still plagiarism.
Alas, her publisher seems to accept Ms. Hart’s explanations, because they are standing by her according to this New York Times report.
Meanwhile, arch-plagiarist Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg has a new job as the EU adviser on internet freedom of all things. Now Guttenberg or rather his ghostwriter certainly knows how to use the Internet to write doctoral dissertations.
However, let’s not forget that Guttenberg also promoted a highly controversial bill regarding the federally mandated blocking of websites. Supposedly, the blocks were only intended to target child porn websites (Mr zu Guttenberg’s wife is an anti-child-porn activist), but internet activists suspected that child porn was just a way of getting public approval for the bill (for who could argue against initiatives against child porn?) and that the real target were torrent websites and in the long run any website disliked by the German government. So making someone who pushed and backed what was essentially an internet censorship bill the EU advisor on internet freedom would be pretty rich, even if he wasn’t a plagiarist. Particularly since Guttenberg accused everybody opposed to the bill of defending child porn back in the day.