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Likely Stories

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Keir Graff and editors from Booklist's adult and youth departments write candidly about books, book reviewing, and the publishing industry

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Thursday, January 10, 2008 1:08 pm
Reference Books Are Full of Ideas
Posted by: Keir Graff

Well, I keep meaning to blog and I keep not blogging and now I’m trying to get out the door to go to Philadelphia for ALA’s Midwinter Meeting. I’ll try to post from there but, who knows, maybe I’ll be back next Tuesday making more excuses. My little clipboard of blog-worthy items is bulging–and gathering cyber-dust.

I’ll leave you with just one link–to a Publishers Weekly story (“Romance Blog Suggests Romance Writer’s Plagiarism; Signet Says It’s Fair Use,” by Lynn Andriani) that includes Google Book Search in a now-familiar role. The somewhat unusual element, however, is that the publisher is not disassociating itself from the author.

Veteran romance novelist Cassie Edwards is revered by her fans for her meticulous research when writing books. From Savage Torment to Savage Sunrise, her books (of which there are more than 100, published by Dorchester/Leisure Books, Signet, Harlequin and other houses) have detailed descriptions of Native American religion, weaponry, cuisine and other subjects. But this week, the romance review blog Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Books called attention to some striking similarities and, in some cases, verbatim passages, between Edwards’s works and a number of nonfiction books about Native American history and customs. Signet, however, is standing by the author.

If you follow the links, you’ll find, in an Associated Press article (“Romance novelist accused of lifting work,” by Hillel Italie) an interesting scene from the author’s home in Mattoon, Illinois:

NEW YORK – A popular romance novelist alleged to have lifted work from other texts acknowledged that she sometimes “takes” her material “from reference books,” but added that she didn’t know she was supposed to credit her sources.

“When you write historical romances, you’re not asked to do that,” Cassie Edwards told The Associated Press, speaking earlier this week from her home in Mattoon, Ill.

Edwards then asked her husband to get on the phone. He told the AP that his wife simply gets “ideas” from reference books.

As Google Book Search identifies more and more alleged plagiarists, the whole discussion of plagiarism is likely to become even more nuanced than it did in 2007. Or, once the number of accused authors grows large enough, accusations may elicit nothing more than yawns.

Or is that happening already?



One Response to “Reference Books Are Full of Ideas”
  1. Book Blog - Likely Stories, by Keir Graff - Booklist Online » Blog Archive » Signet Having Second Thoughts Says:

    [...] When Cassie Edwards was accused of plagiarism, one of her publishers quickly jumped to her defense. Now they’re taking one big step back (”A Romance Novelist Is Accused of Copying,” by Felicia R. Lee, New York Times): “Our original comments were based on Signet’s review of a limited selection of passages,” Mr. Burke’s statement said. “We believe the situation deserves further review. Therefore we will be examining all of Ms. Edwards’s books that we publish, and based on the outcome of that review we will take action to handle the matter accordingly. We want to make it known that Signet takes any and all allegations of plagiarism very seriously.” [...]

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