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Assassin of Secrets


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#31 Captain Tightpants

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 02:35 AM

Sure (although sometimes the only "modifying" was changing a character's name, right?), but that would hardly provide one with a viable plot, either.

This is what Amazon lists as the book blurb:

An elite spy risks his biggest asset to defeat an insidious international organization hell-bent on selling the most sensitive state secrets to the highest bidder.

Jonathan Chase, the CIA's top field agent, is sworn to protect and serve the United States at all costs. But after a brutal period of captivity during the Korean War, Chase developed an agenda of his own: to use his mastery of war to create peace.

His new target: the Zero Directorate, a cabal of rogue assassins who have embarked on a campaign to systematically interrogate and kill seasoned secret agents from across the globe.

But the Directorate has set an elaborate trap, and for Chase the whole mission involves an inescapable paradox. As the world's preeminent operative, the closer he gets to the cabal, the closer the cabal gets to their primary target.

I seems like a mish-mash of a couple of ideas. I can see Fleming's SMERSH in "Zero Directorate", and the protagonist's ulterior motive feels like Lt. Jon Smith in Robert Ludlum's ghostwritten Covert-One series. And the blurb itself is unclear about the actual plot, providing two different ideas: "an elite spy risks his biggest asset to defeat an insidious international organization hell-bent on selling the most sensitive state secrets to the highest bidder" and "the Zero Directorate, a cabal of rogue assassins who have embarked on a campaign to systematically interrogate and kill seasoned secret agents from across the globe". So I wouldn't be too surprised if Rowan pulled plot threads from various novels and crudely spliced them together. It sounds like B-movie fare.

Even the author's photo looks like it's trying way too hard - the half-tinted Wayfarer glasses, the black and white filter, the out-of-focus building in the background - to make it look like he's a genuine spy novellist:

Posted Image

But perhaps most telling is his biography:

Q.R. Markham has been a parks department employee, laundry-truck driver, door-to-door knife salesman, telemarketer, rock 'n' roll bassist, literary scout, book-reviewer, small business owner, and consultant. At age 19, his first published poem appeared in The Best American Poetry of 1996 under the name 'Quentin Rowan.' Two years later, he sold his first short story to The Paris Review. Since then, his writing has appeared in the Best American Poetry anthology, The Paris Review, Bomb Magazine, Witness, The New York Post, and more.

That's more than a little suspect, wouldn't you say?

I wonder what action they take against an author - recall any advances, sue for costs incurred printing a now-unsellable book...?

Markham was signed up for a two-book deal. That has now been cancelled.

#32 Major Tallon

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 02:37 AM

Was it CBn members exclusively that brought this to light?

Jeremy Duns has stated on his blog, "The Debrief," that he became aware of the situation "while perusing a James Bond forum." I presume that he's referring to the posts by AMC Hornet. As a result, Duns contacted the publisher, who took action to withdraw the book.

#33 Matt_13

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 02:39 AM


Was it CBn members exclusively that brought this to light?

Jeremy Duns has stated on his blog, "The Debrief," that he became aware of the situation "while perusing a James Bond forum." I presume that he's referring to the posts by AMC Hornet. As a result, Duns contacted the publisher, who took action to withdraw the book.


Ah, excellent stuff!

By the way, that expert league of rogue assassins sounds a lot like the organization on the tv show Burn Notice.

#34 Captain Tightpants

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 02:42 AM

I presume that he's referring to the posts by AMC Hornet.

Well, this was only reported at MI6 after the plagiarism came to light.

#35 Peaceful

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 02:45 AM

Is it me or does he kinda look like Alfred Molina?
lol

#36 Single-O-Seven

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 02:52 AM

Is it me or does he kinda look like Alfred Molina?
lol



Yes - in a photo shoot circa "A Hard Day's Night."

#37 Major Tallon

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 03:06 AM

I think he looks a lot like a guy who's in serious trouble.

#38 Captain Tightpants

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 03:19 AM

I think he's a guy who looks like he's never going to make a living as a writer.

#39 Single-O-Seven

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 03:26 AM

It was pretty bold of him to rip off James Bond novels. I just can't fathom how he thought that out of all his audience (obviously thriller lovers) not one would realise what he'd done and call him on it. I'd like to say it's ballsy, but it's really just stupidity with a blend of arrogance.

#40 Captain Tightpants

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 03:35 AM

One of the authors who recommended the novel (he was quoted on the cover) has shared his thoughts on what happened and how it came about. It appears that Markham's deception worked because almost the entire novel was plagiarised, and he took works from dozens of authors, both prominent and obscure. I'm actually amazed he managed to splice all of it together into a coherent whole, much less one that a publishing house could pick up and that established authors could fall for. Full credit to Duns for this response - it's measured, intelligent and above all, mature.

#41 Righty007

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 05:00 AM

Just ordered a copy of this piece of [censored] from Amazon because it's going to be a nice collector's item very soon. Only 1 copy left on Amazon.com!

#42 Single-O-Seven

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 05:07 AM

Thanks for posting the link, Captain. It was great to be more deeply informed of the circumstances by someone like Mr. Duns, who experienced it firsthand while being an expert on the affected matter. It's not shocking that the wool could be pulled over a few eyes initially, but as mr. Duns points out, it was just a matter of time. As we know, it didn't require all that much time at all before the ruse was up.

#43 Dustin

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 06:00 AM

What absolutely amazes me isn't just the risk that person took, despite the overwhelming likelihood to be found out. Some people just are like that, with a streak that makes them putting the foot on the accelerator when the crash is imminent.

What I can't get around is why the guy didn't write himself what he wanted. Isn't it much more trouble to steal all the work of others, bend it and force it into whatever kind of plot the guy picked up on the way? It's beyond me why someone goes to all this lengths when it would be far less trouble to write himself and not have to fear almost certain detection.

#44 Captain Tightpants

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 06:06 AM

I just can't fathom how he thought that out of all his audience (obviously thriller lovers) not one would realise what he'd done and call him on it.

I think Quentin Rowan really wanted to be taken seriously as a spy fiction novellist. And it really feels like he is trying way too hard to get that credibility. After all, his penname is "Q. R. Markham" - and as has been well-documented, "Robert Markham" was the pseudonym Gildrose used for Amis' Colonel Sun. Given that he plagiarised from many of the Bond continuity novels, I do not think that this is coincidence.

I think that this desire for acceptance might be what motivated Rowan to plagiarise; he wanted to be like his heroes, and he wanted to be like them straight away, rather than working to earn that reputation. No doubt he had some fantasy where the name "Q. R. Markham" would be used in the same sentence as Ian Fleming and John le Carre and Robert Ludlum as a master of the spy fiction genre, probably as their natrual successor; the Fleming/le Carre/Ludlum of the 2010s. Rowan wouldn't have seen what he did as plagiarism; in fact, he probably wouldn't have seen it as being wrong at all. Rather, I think he would have felt it was some kind of tribute to those writers, they had all influenced him in some way, and he was immortalising those influences at the same time as reserving a place for himself in the pantheon of literary greats. That's probably how he was able to carry out the deception for so long that Assassin of Secrets was on the verge of hitting shelves before the ruse was discovered - because he never actually thought of what he was doing as wrong. It wasn't deviousness that led him to plagiarise, and nor was it laziness. It was just the misguided impression that he could bend reality to fit his desires.

#45 Jim

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 07:29 AM


I just can't fathom how he thought that out of all his audience (obviously thriller lovers) not one would realise what he'd done and call him on it.

I think Quentin Rowan really wanted to be taken seriously as a spy fiction novellist. And it really feels like he is trying way too hard to get that credibility. After all, his penname is "Q. R. Markham" - and as has been well-documented, "Robert Markham" was the pseudonym Gildrose used for Amis' Colonel Sun. Given that he plagiarised from many of the Bond continuity novels, I do not think that this is coincidence.

I think that this desire for acceptance might be what motivated Rowan to plagiarise; he wanted to be like his heroes, and he wanted to be like them straight away, rather than working to earn that reputation. No doubt he had some fantasy where the name "Q. R. Markham" would be used in the same sentence as Ian Fleming and John le Carre and Robert Ludlum as a master of the spy fiction genre, probably as their natrual successor; the Fleming/le Carre/Ludlum of the 2010s. Rowan wouldn't have seen what he did as plagiarism; in fact, he probably wouldn't have seen it as being wrong at all. Rather, I think he would have felt it was some kind of tribute to those writers, they had all influenced him in some way, and he was immortalising those influences at the same time as reserving a place for himself in the pantheon of literary greats. That's probably how he was able to carry out the deception for so long that Assassin of Secrets was on the verge of hitting shelves before the ruse was discovered - because he never actually thought of what he was doing as wrong. It wasn't deviousness that led him to plagiarise, and nor was it laziness. It was just the misguided impression that he could bend reality to fit his desires.


You're being too kind; the perpetrator hardly deserves it. Well done to those who exposed this.

#46 Captain Tightpants

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 07:37 AM

Deserves what? I didn't say he deserves anything, except perhaps the cold shoulder from each and every publishing house on the face of the planet (which he's probably already got). I was just trying to reason out why he did it, and how he managed to get so far. And I just can't see him doing it because he wanted to mislead the world, knowing full well that what he was doing. Nor can I see him doing it because he was lazy or looking for an easy pay day. I certainly can't see him getting to within two days to being published. I think the reason why he got so far was because he craved the kind of attention that the likes of Fleming got. I think he wanted to add his name to the list of authors considered the all-time greats for his favourite genre, and he got so far because he didn't believe that he was doing the wrong thing. That doesn't make what he did any more or less wrong than if he had did it for an easy paycheque or because he wanted to mislead everyone. I'm just curious as to why he did it and how he managed to come close to getting published.

#47 Jim

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 07:41 AM

Deserves what? I didn't say he deserves anything, except perhaps the cold shoulder from each and every publishing house on the face of the planet (which he's probably already got). I was just trying to reason out why he did it, and how he managed to get so far. And I just can't see him doing it because he wanted to mislead the world, knowing full well that what he was doing. Nor can I see him doing it because he was lazy or looking for an easy pay day. I certainly can't see him getting to within two days to being published. I think the reason why he got so far was because he craved the kind of attention that the likes of Fleming got. I think he wanted to add his name to the list of authors considered the all-time greats for his favourite genre, and he got so far because he didn't believe that he was doing the wrong thing. That doesn't make what he did any more or less wrong than if he had did it for an easy paycheque or because he wanted to mislead everyone. I'm just curious as to why he did it and how he managed to come close to getting published.


Oh do calm down; whilst it's a noble effort to understand what is, in essence, theft, you are giving him more original thought than he evidently gave this book; too much attention. Were I you, I wouldn't waste my time trying to understand it. It might explain things, but it won't excuse them.

#48 Righty007

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 07:47 AM

Deserves what? I didn't say he deserves anything, except perhaps the cold shoulder from each and every publishing house on the face of the planet (which he's probably already got). I was just trying to reason out why he did it, and how he managed to get so far. And I just can't see him doing it because he wanted to mislead the world, knowing full well that what he was doing. Nor can I see him doing it because he was lazy or looking for an easy pay day. I certainly can't see him getting to within two days to being published. I think the reason why he got so far was because he craved the kind of attention that the likes of Fleming got. I think he wanted to add his name to the list of authors considered the all-time greats for his favourite genre, and he got so far because he didn't believe that he was doing the wrong thing. That doesn't make what he did any more or less wrong than if he had did it for an easy paycheque or because he wanted to mislead everyone. I'm just curious as to why he did it and how he managed to come close to getting published.

Attempting to rationalize the behavior of a sociopath/thief is an impossible task. He was arrogant enough to think he wouldn't be caught. And he was wrong. Lawsuit forthcoming.

#49 Dustin

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 09:11 AM

Even the author's photo looks like it's trying way too hard - the half-tinted Wayfarer glasses, the black and white filter, the out-of-focus building in the background - to make it look like he's a genuine spy novellist:

Posted Image



Probably no significance, but is that guy trying to look like Carlos the Jackal?

Posted Image

#50 Captain Tightpants

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 09:35 AM

It wouldn't surprise me if that were the intention.

#51 DLibrasnow

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 10:03 AM

This is hilarious. I am sure that IFP have their lawyers looking over the book right now. Hopefully the publishing house has good lawyers to because I would venture a guess that they will need them. When I worked for The Washington Post it was a well known fact that an instance of plagiarism (and it happens more than people realize) meant trouble not so much for the perpetrator but more so for "The Washington Post". What makes it particularly egregious is the intent to make a financial gain out of the work of others which is particularly evident here.

I'm bewildered why Rowan would do it. Surely it's a lot easier to write something original than try to shoehorn other authors material into one cohesive story. The only thing I can think is that he truly is a talentless hack, but in that instance perhaps the people behind his material in the Best American Poetry anthology, The Paris Review, Bomb Magazine, Witness, and The New York Post need to lawyer up to.

I see one of the amazon reviewers recommending the book has the last name "Rowan" - hmmm I wonder who that might be? LMAO.

#52 Dustin

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 10:24 AM

I'm bewildered why Rowan would do it. Surely it's a lot easier to write something original than try to shoehorn other authors material into one cohesive story. The only thing I can think is that he truly is a talentless hack, but in that instance perhaps the people behind his material in the Best American Poetry anthology, The Paris Review, Bomb Magazine, Witness, and The New York Post need to lawyer up to.


Just my thoughts. Entirely beyond any kind of talent he can hardly be, can he? To copy and paste on such scale and patch it all together to make it seem like one coherent work? To me it's really utter lunacy, beyond belief and explanation. Not just the nerve of the a*se, the effort too. Really the most outragous prat.

Shame on you, Rowan!

And now enough of the twit.

#53 Captain Tightpants

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 11:18 AM

It gets worse (for Rowan) - the blog that was highlighting all those examples of his plagiarism in Assassin of Secrets has found evidence that all of his other writings are plagiarised, too.

#54 David Schofield

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 11:52 AM

Thank goodness he got found out, but, Christ, he fooled a lot of people to get as far as he did with it, sadly.

Disgraceful behaviour. Hell, he even plagarised Raymond Benson.

He might have such thick skin for this not to bother him. But at least he'll always be a really ugly [censored].

#55 Skudor

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 11:53 AM

I'm highly amused by this. This must have required some effort - just to add a bit of flavour to what must be pretty boring prose in the first place.

#56 marktmurphy

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 01:41 PM

Fascinating stuff; I rather want a copy now.


But to locate an appropriate passage from each of these books and lift them almost seems like more trouble than just to right them, somehow.

#57 Mr. Blofeld

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 04:58 PM

Wow... Duns and Cumming must really be blushing, now.

#58 Major Tallon

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 05:07 PM

Wow... Duns and Cumming must really be blushing, now.

Duns has actually been quite gracious, acknowledging that he was taken in and giving full credit to AMC Hornet for spotting the plagiarism.

#59 Dustin

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 05:19 PM

Wow... Duns and Cumming must really be blushing, now.



Don't see why they should. A stupid, insolent and most disagreeable [censored] conned them (and his own agent and publishers) into giving an aspiring young writer a chance and comment on what they thought was his work. Nothing else happened. The work was stolen, from various people. But this was hardly an obvious thing and the rogue was probably also found out by AMC because the Gardners, a main source of the thief, were reprinted and reread only recently I suppose.

#60 Mr. Blofeld

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 05:57 PM

I said this because, on a "guest-post" last year on Duns's blog, Rowan posted a completely plagiarized essay, which Duns has since taken down without a mention.

Perhaps I should've specified. I'd say he should've known better, but a lot in the world of writing is taken on faith (credibility and originality being two such things), so I'll give him a pass and just say he should've at least mentioned it in his nevertheless gracious apology.




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