I swear, I wasn’t going to say a thing about romance novelist Cassie Edwards and her sticky-fingered plagiarism problem, but the latest round of revelations regarding her sources is too crazy not to share.
Back at the beginning of the month, one of the writers at Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Books, a weblog reviewing romance novels, pointed out eerie similarities between some of Cassie Edwards’s books and other books.
A word on Cassie Edwards. Between 1982 and 2007 she wrote 100 books. That’s some four books a year. I’ve known of some very good authors who’ve done two novels a year for a year or two — Charlie Stross and Elizabeth Bear come to mind in science fiction circles — but four a year? We’re entering Gilbert Morris crank-turning formula territory here. She’s taken a Harriet Klausner approach to book writing.
Given that speed, and given the strictures of the romance novel genre, I’m not surprised she turned to plagiarism. Not that she sees anything wrong with what she’s done. As the days have gone on and Edwards has defended her work, claiming that she not only didn’t know she should credit sources, but that “[w]hen you write historical romances, you’re not asked to do that”.
Sadly, as I learned during my days as a teacher, plagiarism is like a stack of Lay’s potato chips. You’re not going to eat just one. And it’s the mind-boggling breadth of what she stole that blows my tiny mind.
How about an article about ferrets? Paul Tolme, the article’s writer, was quite taken aback at how his source material was used in Shadow Bear.
The prose is standard romance-novel shlock. Bramlett’s bosom heaves. Shadow Bear feels a longing in his loins. On page 195, after several false starts to stoke the furnaces of readers, Bramlett and Shadow Bear finally get down to business. They have sex in his teepee on some animal pelts. Hungrily, their sinuous bodies rock and quake until both explode in rapturous pleasure. When the teepee flaps are rocking, don’t come a-knocking.
Then, a few pages later, as Bramlett and Shadow Bear bask in their postcoital glow, my ferrets arrive on the scene.
Let me pause there and let you enjoy that image.
“They are so named because of their dark legs,” Shadow Bear says, to which Shiona responds: “They are so small, surely weighing only about two pounds and measuring two feet from tip to tail.”
Shiona then tells Shadow Bear how she once read about ferrets in a book she took from the study of her father. “I discovered they are related to minks and otters. It is said their closest relations are European ferrets and Siberian polecats,” she says. “Researchers theorize that polecats crossed the land bridge that once linked Siberia and Alaska, to establish the New World population.”
This is one of the most egregious as you know Bobisms I’ve ever seen. But there’s more! It wasn’t just reference books she stole from. She took passages from Oliver La Farge’s Laughing Boy, winner of the 1930 Pulitzer prize. Best of all, she adapted parts of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Song of Hiawatha. Really!
If you’re going to do something, you should commit to it with all of your heart and mind. Edwards certainly has done that with her plagiarism. You have to have admire someone who will steal from The Song of Hiawatha.