Q.R. Markham: The Plagiarist of Secrets and another example of why writing is hard work

So has everyone heard about “Assassin of Secrets” by Q.R. Markham (real name: Quentin Rowan), which was recently published by Mulholland Books, an imprint of Little, Brown in New York, and which was then very quickly pulled from stores because it contains some of the most blatant acts of plagiarism anyone has seen in a long time?

If not, here’s a New York Times article.

Here’s the James Bond message board where readers first discovered the plagiarism.

Jeremy Duns, an author of spy fiction, was left somewhat embarrassed by his involvement with Quentin Rowan and has written two posts on the topic. You can read them here and here.  They’re extremely interesting and well-thoughtout posts.

And be sure to read the “customer reviews” on Amazon where readers had more than a few choice words to share.

Here’s what Quentin Rowan had to say to The New York Daily News about why he was writing a spy thriller:

There was a bunch of books by people who were technically my peers that felt showy and one-note. Maybe I had to dumb it down… There was a huge literary swirl around me… I always felt a part of that and also apart from it at the same time. Paul Auster was in all the time… With the economy so bad, there’s no room for a writer to worry about selling out… People who were writing thoughtful short stories about suburban malaise are now writing vampire stories.

Mediabistro reprinted part of Quentin Rowan’s confession from the comments section of Jeremy Duns’ blog posts:

“Once the book was bought, I had to make major changes in quite a hurry, basically re-write the whole thing from scratch, and that’s when things really got out of hand for me. I just didn’t feel capable of writing the kinds of scenes and situations that were asked of me in the time allotted and rather than saying I couldn’t do it, or wasn’t capable, I started stealing again. I didn’t want to be seen as anything other than a writing machine, I guess.

You can read the entire email exchange on Jeremy Duns’ blog.

So why am I posting this?  Two reasons:

1) Like many who are interested in the publishing business, I’m intrigued when this sort of thing happens.  It took sheer, dumb luck for Quentin Rowan to get as far as he did with his ruse.

2) Here’s what I tell young writers who contact me and ask for my advice about how to get started in this business: Ultimately, I believe writing is about practice, learning the language and finding your voice.  It’s not easy.  Not everything you write, especially the early stuff when you’re getting your feet wet, needs to be shown to the world.  What you write and why you write it is your own business, and the writing has to come first.  But if you’re not writing, you can’t be a writer.

Like so many people in the world today, Quentin Rowan wanted to take a short cut.  He couldn’t be bothered to write his own book.  In fact, he felt authors like Jonathan Safran Foer were “showy and one-note.”

Well, Quentin, no matter what you think of their writing, at least they actually wrote their books.

2 thoughts on “Q.R. Markham: The Plagiarist of Secrets and another example of why writing is hard work

  1. And because of this, I think certain readers will be gleefully scanning works of published authors in hopes of exposing and bringing a big gun down. Most of us wouldn’t have the time or waste the energy on such a pursuit, but I do believe there are those people who are carefully cherry picking sentences out of published books that remind them of _______(insert author here) and Googling them as we speak.

    What are your thoughts on this?

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