James Frey and Dan Brown


I’m am part of a group of mystery writers who have created a rolling mystery blog which consists of several people writing on the same topic and posting our articles on the same day. Today, I’m it. Our strongest blogger has left us for a few weeks to care for his ill mother. We have a few who are re-vampling blogs, a couple on deadline, and some who just don’t have an opinion on this subject. So, for today, this will be the only blog on the roll. Below the following article will be info on the next blog roll.

And now, on to my article:  James Frey And Dan Brown

It used to be that I never thought about questioning what writers did, whether they were operating ethically, being honest. But now I’m a writer and that makes these people related to me, sorta. Not related closely enough for them to share their fortunes. But related closely enough that I could be put in the same catagory as them.

James Frey wrote a memoir, went on the Oprah Show, and made a fortune. Later we learn that his memoir was ’embelished’ with untruths, to make it read better. And then there’s Dan Brown. It’s been said that a couple of men did years of research on the subject of whether or not Jesus was married. They felt they’d proved that point and wrote a book with their theory. And Dan Brown wrote a fictional book on the same subject, which ended up being a break out novel that made millions.

Okay, so here’s what I think. James Frey lied. He got caught. Maybe it hurt his pride, but he seems to have landed on his feet. Did he do wrong? I think so. Memoirs are supposed to be true accounts of a person’s life. He made stuff up. Everyone makes mistakes. In fact, Americans tend to be a rather greedy bunch, and often think that when it comes to success, anything goes. Not all of us, but a good portion. We all deserve a second chance, if we mend our ways and walk the straight and narrow. But I wouldn’t automatically assume that whatever he puts out into the world will be honest, just because we think he’s learned his lesson. That’s another thing about Americans. We don’t assume people are basically good, and will do the right thing. Still, James Frey deserves to make a living, and to go forward with his life. I didn’t read his book. But I might, someday.

And as for Dan Brown? I don’t see that he did anything wrong. Apparently, the men who did the research regarding Jesus and marriage, made their theory public. And Dan Brown used that public knowledge to write a novel. Novelists do that. And if I understand correctly, his book was published at the same time, or very close to the same time, as the other book, the non-fiction book, on the subject. Why wouldn’t he? Isn’t that just called perfect timing? Isn’t that what any novelist would do? He didn’t steal their idea. We don’t own ideas. He didn’t write a non-fiction book on the same subject, claiming he was the one who’d made this ‘discovery’. He simply used public knowledge and his publishing company used the info they had on the original research and the upcoming book.

I’ve seen articles about these two men, separately, and comparing them. Recently. Can we get over it now and get on with our own writing? Can we learn from them, and then let it go? I mean, really! Now I’m even writing about them, and I never really paid much attention to either of them, except to read Dan Brown’s books, which, by the way, I quite enjoyed. And no, I didn’t read the ‘non-fiction’ on the same subject. I don’t happen to agree with the men who wrote that dribble…I mean…that book, and I’m not going to waste my time on it.

Here’s the thing: I’m human. I make mistakes. I make poor choices. I take my licks, learn my lesson, and go on. So did James Frey. And if I find information that has been made public, and find that I can use it to write a great book, I’ll be on it like ants on sugar. So let’s cut out this obsessing over what these two men did and get busy doing our own thing!

Thanks for listening to another rant. On Friday, the Rolling Mystery Blog Tours will return with a roll on When did you know you where a storyteller? We will start right here, on my blog, so please return Friday and see what we have to say on this subject.

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