Archive for November 18, 2011

Cuckoo in the nest

Posted: November 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

Why are we seeing articles with the Best mysteries/thrillers of 2011 lists in November? Why don’t people wait till the year actually ends?

This is week 46 out of 52 weeks, which means there is more than 10% of the year to go, but some lists have already appeared at Publishers Weekly, and also at Kirkus Reviews. The dangers in rushing out lists so early in the year was shown by  Jen at Jen’s Book Thoughts who spotted a massive blunder on the Kirkus Review list, where they had picked Assassin of Secrets by Q.R.Markham as one of their best mysteries of the year. Unfortunately it seems that large chunks of Assassin of Secrets were copied from a non-fiction book written by John Bamforth, and spy thrillers written by John Gardner, and Charles McCarry………

That list was hurriedly modified on the Kirkus website. But kudos to Jen for proving how little thought goes into these lists, and how ridiculously early in the year the lists are composed. 

Perhaps it is the embarrassment caused by Assassins of Secrets slipping through the process of editing [do they  employ editors or proof readers anymore?], subsequent publication, reviews etc that has produced an alternative view of the book in an article by Ben East. East’s theory is that Q.R. Markham’s book was a ‘great novel built from other great novels’, and he mentioned that someone once said ‘talent imitates, genius steals’. The actual quote was I believe ‘talent borrows, genius steals’ and is by Oscar Wilde.

Did Markham just get carried away by the writing process? Or did he set out to embarrass some of the top names in crime thriller writing, those who reviewed his book so positively? Did he want to be found out?

There are only a limited amount of plots in crime fiction, and the more books you read the more you understand the author is merely producing another variation on a theme. The crime fiction aficionado will always wonder if the next book will contain some new twist on an old proven theme. But Markham seems to have merely copied out vast chunks of other peoples work almost word for word, and he explains it by saying he wanted to impress the people at Little Brown. Genius or blatant theft?

Perhaps if Kirkus had patiently waited till the end of the year to produce their lists they would have avoided the embarrassment of the inclusion of this cuckoo in the nest. Surely the time for 2011’s best of lists is in January 2012, not in mid November with many hours of reading time left in the year.  

But copies of the Assassin of Secrets are apparently changing hands for large amounts of money so perhaps Mr Markham will have the last laugh, and another quotation from Oscar Wilde might turn out to be more appropriate:

There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. From the preface of Picture of Dorian Gray