Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Key to the DaVinci Code

The case against Dan Brown and The Da Vinci Code, brought by Richard Leigh and Michael Baigent, has gone to trial in London. Leigh and Baigent cowrote a book called Holy Blood, Holy Grail, published in 1982, which they say Dan Brown stole from to write his bestselling book.

Whether or not their case has merit is for the courts to decide. But I do have an opinion about The Da Vinci Code. I've read both books. I read Holy Blood, Holy Grail first. Which in large part explains my extreme dislike for The Da Vinci Code.

Nearly every plot twist and informational cliffhanger that has made The Da Vinci Code such a thrilling book to read for so many was for me a source of frustration and anger, as I already knew what was going to happen and what was yet to be revealed, because I had already read Holy Blood, Holy Grail.

I don't know whether it can be legally be proven that Dan Brown stole from Baigent and Leigh, but for all practical purposes, he did. He wrote a fictional story based on their quasi-historical research.

And as much as I disliked The Da Vinci Code, fictional stories based on another person's historical research is how historical fiction gets written. Without it, there would be no Autobiography of Mrs. Jane Pittman, no Amadeus, no Name of the Rose, no Braveheart. Writers of historical fiction depend on the work of historians to be able to tell their stories.

My story, "Long Pilgrimage Home" (published in Paradox magazine), would have been impossible without a variety of history books, including a wonderful book on Templar history called Dungeon, Fire and Sword by John J. Robinson. My interest in the Templars was kindled by... you guessed it - Holy Blood, Holy Grail.

I dislike the popularity of The Da Vinci Code. I think Holy Blood, Holy Grail is a better book by far - they tell a more interesting story without all the asinine cliffhangers and three page chapters and two-dimensional caricatures. I think Dan Brown went too far in his borrowing of their research. His book is lazy and uninspired and written by template and filled with literary cheats and cheap tricks. And it's selling millions of copies, so go figure.

But I can't agree with this lawsuit. It's wrong. Baigent and Leigh should get over it and be happy with all the extra copies of their books that would never have sold were it not for the popularity of The Da Vinci Code.


polijn said...

You know, if the guy had slapped a bibliography or even a suggested reading in the back that mentioned he used Baigent & Leigh's book as a source for his research, he probably wouldn't be having this problem. I know fiction works don't require a works cited page, but one would think it common courtesy to mention, even in passing, those sources and people who helped greatly in your research. . .

Jeff said...

Actually, HBHG is mentioned in the DVC, about halfway through, if I remember correctly.

But an acknowledgment page would probably have been more appropriate, something along the lines of "this novel would not have been possible with the research of the following people and their excellent books..."

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