Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, is to face a High Court action brought by the authors of the 1982 non-fiction book The Holy Blood, and the Holy Grail, who allege that his blockbuster was based on their decade of research.
Speaking ahead of a preliminary hearing of the case next week, Richard Leigh, 62, one of the writers, said: “I don’t begrudge Brown his success. I have no particular grievance against him, except for the fact that he wrote a pretty bad novel.”
The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail
Mr Leigh, an American who has lived in England since 1974, and Michael Baigent, 57, a New Zealander, his co-author, are suing Random House, Brown’s publishers, for infringement of their ideas.
They are funding the action with the proceeds of their book, which Random House has reissued in a special ?20 hardback edition to cash in on the success of Brown’s novel.
Henry Lincoln, 75, a Londoner who also co-wrote the book, is ill and has decided to remain out of the action.
A two-week trial is scheduled for the end of February, with both sides assembling formidable legal teams.
If a judge backs the action, the UK release in May of Sony Pictures’s ?53 million film of The Da Vinci Code may be delayed. Paul Sutton, solicitor for the writers, said: “A reason that this case is so important is that it can create a precedent in copyright law across the world of entertainment.”
With The Da Vinci Code selling 29 million copies in 42 languages, Brown is the world’s highest paid author, earning £45 million last year.
Source: Dismantling The Da Vinci Code By Sandra Miesel, Crisis, Sep. 1, 2003
While his book has been attacked as nonsense by the Vatican, The Holy Blood and Holy Grail came under fire from the Anglican Church, for its suggestion that Christ married Mary Magdalene and their descendants became kings of ancient France.
Anthony Burgess, the author, said in a review: “I can only see this as a marvellous theme for a novel.”
Mr Leigh said: “That was somewhat ironic. In fact, we toyed with the idea of a novel on several occasions.
“The book caused a fairly substantial flap at the time, both here and in the United States. We were very careful to state that in synthesising the material, we were presenting a hypothesis.
“When I first heard about The Da Vinci Code, I ordered it. I said to my agent, ‘If they make a film of this, I will be p****d off’.”
He added that the writer Paul Schrader had been interested in making a film of his book for Paramount Pictures before he wrote the screenplay for the 1988 film The Last Temptation of Christ.
Mr Leigh said: “That’s another reason for our grievance. In effect, Brown has ruined our material.”
Intriguingly, the only mention of his book in The Da Vinci Code is when its villain, an eccentric English historian called Sir Leigh Teabing, lifts a copy off his bookshelf and says: “The authors made some dubious leaps of faith in their analysis, but their fundamental premise is sound.”
The name Leigh Teabing is an anagram of Leigh and Baignent, while his physical description – he walks on crutches – is allegedly based on Mr Lincoln, who walks with a limp.
Mr Leigh said: “None of us can work out why he did that. Was it a jokey homage, or a nudge, nudge, wink, wink?”
Mr Brown, 40, who lives in Exeter, New Hampshire, said when asked about the historical “underpinnings” of his novel, that “information has been out there for a long time, and there have been a lot of books about this theory.
“The interesting thing is that they’re all history tomes that sit in the back corner of bookstores. The Da Vinci Code has taken a lot of that information and put it into a different genre, and there’s an enormous part of the population now that’s hearing this for the first time. And it feels brand new.”
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