The latest plagiarism controversy: The Woman in the Window

March 2, 2019 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: journalism.

You could argue that everything is plagiarized. Nothing is original.

Mark Twain did, as Alison Flood points out that the beginning of her excellent article on plagiarism in the Guardian this week (Secondhand books: the murky world of literary plagiarism | Books | The Guardian):

“As if there was much of anything in any human utterance, oral or written, except plagiarism!” opined Mark Twain more than 100 years ago. “The kernel, the soul – let us go further and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of allhuman utterances – is plagiarism.”

Twain was writing to his friend, the deafblind author Helen Keller, after reading her autobiography, in which she recounted her own experiences of being accused of – and admitting to – plagiarism.

The current controversy that sparked Flood’s article is that of the novel The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn (a pseudonym for Dan Mallory), which shot to the tops of best-seller list when it was published in January 2018. The novel bears a close resemblance to Saving April by Sarah Denzil, which was self-published by Denzil in March 2016.

Mallory has recently been the subject of a long New Yorker article, exposing the many times through his career that Mallory has lied about his work, his experience, and his career. According to Flood,

The New Yorker profile identified another work similar to The Woman in the Window: the 1995 film Copycat, starring Sigourney Weaver and Holly Hunter. The film and the novel both see a psychologist become trapped in her home by agoraphobia, drink too much, be mistrusted by the police and join a forum that turns out to be dangerous. The director of Copycat, Jon Amiel, told the New Yorker that the debt was “not actionable, but certainly worth noting, and one would have hoped that the author might have noted it himself”.

Mallory himself has been open about being inspired by other works, including Gillian Flynn, Kate Atkinson and the Hitchcock film Rear Window, which he says he had just finished watching when the idea came to him.

Neither the controversy nor the exposure has done Mallory much damage. The Woman in the Window is still among the top 30 books in two of Amazon Kindle’s thriller lists.

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