Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Q. R. Markham aka Quentin Rowan

"Up over the swell of hot sugar
up over the swell of rubber
Up over the death creaks, rises and falls
like heart attacks
Up over the backyards and bricks
Up over the smell of Ms. Roha's beans..."

So begins Quentin Rowan's poem "Prometheus at Coney Island" which appeared in The Best American Poetry 1996. His poetry has also appeared in Hanging Loose and The Paris Review. But Quentin Rowan uses another name as well: Q. R. Markham.

As Q. R. Markham, he wrote a thriller novel called Assassin of Secrets. The problem? It has been discovered that he copied entire passages of that novel from at least 13 different previously published thrillers.

Author Jeremy Duns appears to have been one of the first to discover the plagiarism and notify the publisher. He has a good write-up here. He says, in part:
"I considered emailing Mr Rowan to ask him what in blue blazes he was thinking, but decided not to waste any more time corresponding with him – it would make no difference what excuse he came up with. The evidence was incontrovertible,..."
Both the New Yorker and the Guardian ran stories about the plagiarism, with varying degrees of castigation. The New Yorker article is rather long and takes a closer look at Rowan the person. It's great reading. The Guardian article talks more about plagiarism in general and the recycling of ideas in literature. It's good reading. This passage in particular was thought-provoking:
"In the virtual world, the most valuable currency is reality. ...the howls are always loudest when it turns out that something presented as genuine turned out to be secondhand or fake."
I'm not sure I agree entirely with this, but it is something I will consider over the next few weeks.

Edited to add: Another great write-up that identifies many of the lifted passages and their sources in great detail can be found here.

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