Dan Brown, J.K. Rowling & … Lewis Perdue?


Just call it “The Da Vinci Cup Of Gold Legacy.”

Weird thing, ordinary thriller writer like me getting all wrapped up with two of the biggest grossing authors of all time.

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CYBER-DETECTING THE “AUTHORIAL FINGERPRINT”

But there it was, all plain to see in the media and all over the internet: As reported by the Author’s Guild, a nifty software system had outed J.K. Rowling:

“A lesson on how predictable our prose can be from Patrick Juola, a professor of computer science at Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University, who explained to Time how he identified similarities between The Cuckoo’s Calling  and Rowling’s previous books.

“Juola uses a program — Java Graphical Authorship Attribution Program, which is a free download available for anyone to play around with — to pull out the hundred most frequent words across an author’s vocabulary. This step eliminates rare words, character names and plot points, leaving him with words like of and but, ranked by usage. Those words might seem inconsequential, but they leave an authorial fingerprint on any word’.”

ET TU DAN BROWN?

Interesting thing, is that the same system of examining text that Juola described is what produced the initial indictment of The Da Vinci Code’s plagiarism of my books, Daughter of God and The Da Vinci Legacy.

John Olsson, the internationally renowned forensic linguist who called Brown’s plagiarism the worst he had ever seen, said that his software and examination went far beyond Juola’s methods to conclusively establish Brown’s plagiarism.

The most complete telling of the plagiarism issue was covered in the July 2006 issue of Vanity Fair. The article was written by then-Newsweek reporter and VF contributor Seth Mnookin.

Mnookin is now a science book author and a faculty member at MIT.

DIFFERENT VENUES, DIFFERENT OUTCOMES

Of course, there is nothing wrong with an author using a pseudonym or plagiarizing themselves. Rowling’s trial in the court of public opinion was a very enjoyable one for all concerned.

The Dan Brown/DaVinci Code thing began exactly ten years ago when I was on the receiving end of scores of emails from all over the country from readers of my books calling my attention to the plagiarism.

RANDOM GOES ALL DG SORORITY GIRL

When I contacted Random House inquiring about this (but not accusing) , they went all DG Sorority Girl on me and cranked up a legal and PR machine to protect their multi-million-dollar property.

In the end, Random House sued me to shut me up.

$300,000 TO HIDE THE TRUTH

They spent $300,000+ on high-priced lawyers to get a friendly court and a judge that prohibited a jury trial and prohibited the many expert witnesses and their testimony that proved the plagiarism. And avoided having Dan Brown under oath on the stand before a jury.

Random House never responded to questions about why they were so terrified of the evidence that they spent heavily to keep it out of court. Yes, the truth can hurt.

The judge — who had no professional qualifications related to literary plagiarism — ruled in favor of Random House who promptly asked the court to make me pay the $300,oo0 in their legal fees.

FEDERAL MAGISTRATE SIDES WITH PERDUE

A federal magistrate, charged with determining if I should pay, wrote an astounding opinion that basically contradicted the trial judge’s conclusions and ruled that Random House should eat their own legal fees.

Former science book author and Newsweek reporter Seth Mnookin — now on the faculty at MIT — offered a postscript to this in a 2006 piece: The ongoing saga of The Da Vinci Code

I paid no legal fees or expert witness fees. I was represented pro bono because all those who supported me felt that the case was clearly plagiarism.

And it all started ten years ago this month.

QUO VADIS?

There’s no escaping the fact that hassling with the plagiarism set my life on a different trajectory. Looking back over the last ten years, it’s clear that Random House’s DG Sorority Girl smear promoted by big, high-priced PR flacks has intimidated the timid and uninformed in the publishing industry.

Few know of Random’s expensive cover-up of the evidence. Because of that, my defense of my hard work makes me seem like a toxic troublemaker. But with my children looking on, I could either run from the bully or stand up. And I did not want to teach my kids to appease bullies.

So yeah, I took some knocks. But the past 10 years have been fantastic doing things I would probably not have.

TECH STARTUP: I sold Pocketpass, a web payments company that I had founded (and created the first patent filings on mobile payments).

WINE START-UP: I started a wine trade industry publication (Wine Industry Insight) and it has the largest subscribership in North America. Ditto for its expensive behind-the-paywall pub, Wine Executive News.

FACEBOOK WINE APP: My Facebook wine rating app, SavvyTaste has been a fun development sandbox that’s led me to create a new recommendation engine that will be better than the ones used by Amazon, Netflix … and anyone in the wine industry. Working with a top Silicon Valley patent attorney on that right now.

TEACHING: My wine involvement has led to a teaching position in the MBA program at Sonoma State University. It’s a different gig than my faculty posts at Cornell and UCLA, but it has significant strengths, is a real asset to the area and populated by students every bit as bright as I’ve taught before.

SCIENCE BOOK: Then there’s a non-fiction science book in the works, New Silent Spring, in collaboration with a top East Coast biologist. NSS is in stealth mode right now, so can’t say more.

TACTICAL TREKKER: There’s my mountaineering and backpacking site — Tactical Trekker — that’s in the monetizing stages and has led me into designing and licensing some new gear. Trademarks are in the works thanks to Napa law firm Dickenson, Peatman & Fogarty.

ANOTHER THRILLER: I’ve written another thriller — Die By Wire — and acquired the rights back to most of my backlist. I’m gradually returning them to publication. All that’s here at lewisperdue.com

Would I be doing all this had the Da Vinci Code plagiarism dust-up happened?

Okay, the thriller for sure. And probably a few more.

But the rest: Most probably not.

So, I can be grateful for the totally unexpected trajectories my life has taken.

Random House got the legal bills and Dan Brown got the money.

I got the writing credit (which was all I wanted) and I get to spend it with the most wonderful family on the planet: William, 20; Katherine, 15 and wife Megan (age classified) … married 32 years last month.

Been one helluva ride (so far) and I wouldn’t change a thing.

FURTHER GORY DETAILS

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  • Alan

    There are some “interesting” similarities between Brown’s “Inferno” and Richard Preston’s “The Cobra Event”. Not nearly as many obvious ones as in your case.

    • http://lewisperdue.com/ Lewis Perdue

      fascinating! Do you have any examples? Love to take a look.

      • alan

        Main villains military grade bio-weapons pros. both loners. both planning virus deployment in major cities. some textual references to over-population, black plague as an important historical event. To name a few. Many details, of course, are completely different … but I just happened to read them back to back … and after having kept up with your tribulations …the similarities just happened to stick out.

        • http://lewisperdue.com/ Lewis Perdue

          Many thanks for that. And your kind remarks about my writing!