By JULIE BOSMAN
4:30 p.m. | Updated Little, Brown & Company has pulled a mystery novel from the shelves after passages in the book were found to have been plagiarized from “a variety of classic and contemporary spy novels,” the publisher said on Tuesday. The book, “Assassin of Secrets,” a debut novel by Q. R. Markham, was released last week by Mulholland Books, an imprint of Little, Brown.
“We take great pride in the writers and books we publish and tremendous care in every aspect of our publishing process, so it is with deep regret that we have published a book that we can no longer stand behind,” Michael Pietsch, the publisher of Little, Brown, said in a statement. “Our goal is to never have this happen, but when it does, it is important to us to communicate with and compensate readers and retailers as quickly as possible.”
Nicole Dewey, a spokeswoman for the publisher, said 6,500 copies of the book were printed. The book was ranked 49,200 on Amazon.com on Tuesday afternoon. Ms. Dewey said some of the passages in question were taken from James Bond novels and books by Robert Ludlum and Charles McCarry.
Q.R. Markham is a pen name for Quentin Rowan, an owner of Spoonbill & Sugartown Booksellers, a store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, that specializes in art and design books. Mr. Markham did not immediately return a message left for him at the bookstore. Bookstores were instructed to return the books to the publisher, and customers asked to return books to retailers for refunds.
I guess someone started going through “Assassin of Secrets”, identifying plagiarized passages. The examples seem staggeringly egregious (full list at edrants.com). Plagiarizing from multiple sources, lengthy passages from well-known books seems particularly insane. It seems that it would take enormous effort and purpose to research and produce a mashup novel of this magnitude, a bizarre mix-tape of the author’s favorite moments in the genre, pulling from texts in the double digits, and spliced together with edit/copy/paste. It could almost be a parody mash-up, to convey the vacuousness and Wikipediability of modern genre fiction. It has further been revealed – through a sweeping movement of crowd-sourcing, that not only did Mr. Rowan plagiarize his novel but also pretty much everything he has ever published.
Quentin Rowan is part owner of the Brooklyn bookshop pretentiously named Spoonbill & Sugarton, a prettily curated shop peddling art books, ironic and strange used books, moleskins and postcards. When I was there, the young fella – let’s just call him Mr Special – assisting me was the nastier and less adorable literary version of John Cusack’s character from High Fidelity. I thought I had stepped onto a sitcom set of a ludicrously rude and consciously ironic North Brooklyn wasteland. Mr. Special minced and capered, and sneered as hipsters flounced in and out with their David Foster Wallace tomes and spanking new copies of Eating Animals. It was as if the bookstore was not about books at all, rather an affectation to be worn like a pair of stupidly huge postmodern glasses or a wool cap in summer.
Rowan is 35, a pleasant looking fellow who grew up on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. His bio is a colorful concoction of what were his college days jobs as “a laundry truck driver and a door-to-door salesman,” so says he: “ Author bios are such hard things”. It was while he was working at a Community Bookstore in Park Slope that Rowan rubbed shoulders with “Brooklyn’s literary elite”.
“There was a huge literary swirl around me. I always felt a part of that and also apart from it at the same time.”
He said that he had grown “disillusioned” by all the other Brooklyn“wunderkind writers”, such as Jonathan Safran Foer, striking it big around him.
“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.”
I don’t really begrudge the poor guy his breaking-point frustration over seeing the vampire diarists of the world get rich while he toils in Sugartown, but sheesh, doesn’t it seem as if – what with his healthy grasp on the genre – that it would have been easier for him to have crapped out something derivative but technically original and shoot it off in an email to his publisher, since it seems as if money was his goal here?
Even Rowan’s pen name is not original. Markham was the pseudonym created for Kingsley Amis for his commissioned James Bond novel, “Colonel Sun”, in 1967. Quentin Rowan said he wrote the novel under the name Q.R. Markham “in case there was something down the road that I wanted to put my real name on.” Or for that other reason: He’s a plagiarist. But my main issue with the guy is the smirky smirk and the sunglasses that he is rocking in his promo shot. It is clearly not very sunny. I hate that!