I pride myself in giving credit where credit is due. No matter how I feel about someone, I do give credit, but…there are times that not even that is enough to exonerate someone. Q.R. Markham is one such man.
Who is Q.R. Markham to Think He Can Deceive Us?
Have you heard of Q.R. Markham? Many haven’t. He was caught plagiarizing with his first ever novel. He didn’t have time to make a name for himself in high circles. He was caught in no time once his book hit the shelves. The audacity!
Who does he think he is? Someone who arrogantly thought they could get away with it. And he almost did.
The Unveiled Secret
His book, Assassin’s Secret, went through an editor, a publisher, and several reviewers before the secret was unveiled. How plagiarized was it? According to one website, here are the comparisons between Markham’s book and one of James Bamfords’ called Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency” (http://www.edrants.com/q-r-markham-plagiarist/)
Markham, Page 13: “His step had an unusual silence to it. It was late morning in October of the year 1968 and the warm, still air had turned heavy with moisture, causing others in the long hallway to walk with a slow shuffle, a sort of somber march.”
Taken from Page 1 of James Bamford’s Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency: “His step had an unusual urgency to it. Not fast, but anxious, like a child heading out to recess who had been warned not to run. It was late morning and the warm, still air had turned heavy with moisture, causing others on the long hallway to walk with a slow shuffle, a sort of somber march.”
A little too similar if you ask me. This was just one example of dozens found on the site the author pieced together. Markham’s work has been described as a “pastiche or collage, rather than a “novel,” as we properly understand the word.” (http://www.newyorker.com/books/ page-turner/q-r-markhams-plagiarism-puzzle) He pulled pieces from numerous books and put them together in a unique and sadly creative method to develop his own story. But how did he expect to get away with it especially since some of the material he stole was from popular books and authors? That’s something interesting to explore.
Why Wasn’t It Caught?
Going through a major publishing house, you’d have thought that the stolen passages would have been noticed. Even reviewers who praised his book have wondered how it got by them. Yes, they felt the book was familiar but they were looking more at style and commenting how it related to certain books that ruled the genre he was writing in. Well…he was stealing from them so yes his book would be very similar. But by patching multiple works together he gave a literary curtain over his work that allowed the similarities to come through but not the details at least to those who were not cult followers.
Cult followers were his downfall. These people who read these books know the manuscripts word for word because they read them over and over. They are the ones you go to for any information on the author and his/her characters. Markham’s use of the Bond material and other famous spy novels caught the eye of the cult followers who sounded the plagiarist horn.
Hearing the sounds of discontent from readers and the accusations flying, the publisher quickly went into action and scoured the books Markham was accused of stealing from. Sure enough, he had virtually stolen from twelve popular authors in such a creative way that his own book was entertaining and read as one unique piece of writing. But it couldn’t escape those who were passionate in the genre. He was caught.
Where Does One Go From Here?
So where does one go from here when his very first novel is one that has rocked the literary world for its audacity and yet creative mindset? Probably walking in the shadows of shame as people look at him in horror and resented admiration at creating such a piece that captured the attention of so many and fooled even more.
Markham freely admits that it isn’t his first time at stealing other people’s hard work. He began when he was only twenty years old when he “began to distrust my own voice and began swiping other people’s words or phrases because I thought they sounded better or more clever than my own.” (http://observer.com/2011/11/q-r-markham-takes-his-remorse-public/) From there he admits that began publishing short stories that were completely swiped from other people, mainly obscure people. Success was paving a path for him while no one realized what they were praising were words written by other people. Until he got caught.
He went beyond publications where he could be lost in the other works that surrounded his. In a novel, he was standing on his own and the light dimmed suddenly. His work was no longer in the obscure shadows. He was front and center and revealed to be the thief he was.
What will he do next? Maybe teach a creative writing class. Come on! We have to admit it was creatively done, just not quite ethical.