Books That Borrow

They say imitation is the best form of flattery, and this book definitely imitates DE Stevenson’s MISS BUNKLE’S BOOK. The author starts out by giving credit where credit is due, saying how she admires that great writer of years ago and her famous series.

I was glad to see the author give credit to Mrs Stevenson, but create her own characters and setting. This story borrows the basic plot and takes it even further, with a murder resulting from the scandalously accurate book.

It was so compelling that I read the whole book in one sitting yesterday! The main characters are sympathetic, the village folks somewhat caricatures yet quite believable. The social setting’s true to that era. I’m old enough to recall the days when “what happens at home stays at home.” Battered women and children had almost no options, just as in this story.

Georgette was quite naive to so accurately portray her village; she learns the folly of this as the story progresses. I enjoyed Marian as a new friend and foil to Georgette, and her servant Eunice as a mother-substitute. I can’t approve of Georgette whacking someone on the head at one point, a deviation from her normal meek character. Still, this is a great tale and I’m looking forward to reading Book 2.

I’m thankful she didn’t try to hitch her wagon to another’s star, as I’ve seen some writers do. This comes too close to plagiary, IMO. Anyone can borrow a plot, but a new book should be able to stand on its own, with its own cast and setting. What do you think?

I know others take a more casual view than me re: horning in on a name or fame. I critiqued a short story once where the writer used the characters of Narnia, but made them older and more corrupt. Lucy’s smoking a cigarette; Edwin’s having an affair with the White Witch. I and another critter told her C S Lewis’s books are still under copyright. She didn’t think it was a big deal. No! You just can’t DO that.

Maybe in a children’s book, if copyrights have expired. Author Marthe Jocelyn writes the Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen series, where Agatha Morton and her new friend, Belgian refuge Hector Perot, solve mysterious deaths. I found the first one interesting and well written, though Aggie’s very daring compared to real girls of that era, and her parents a lot more tolerant.
The BLURB explains: A smart and charming middle-grade mystery series starring young detective Aggie Morton and her friend Hector, inspired by the imagined life of Agatha Christie as a child and her most popular creation, Hercule Poirot.

5 thoughts on “Books That Borrow

  1. It’s one thing to write fan fiction but quite another to copy. I’m with you on that one. Taking existing characters past the age where they are in the original book would be interesting though. I, too, do not like the idea of taking Narnia’s characters and giving them other characteristics. It’s a “cheap” way of writing, I should think,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment. It’s rather fuzzy territory and maybe I’m being too straight-laced about it. One writer has made Dorothy Sayers her main character and Peter Wimsey has become the doctor in her stories. (He retains his rather scatterbrained personality, so you wouldn’t want him for a doctor!)

      To date the estate of Dorothy Sayers hasn’t sued her, so it mustn’t be illegal. But why borrow unless you anticipate those familiar names will help sell your books? That’s taking advantage of the solid foundation another writer worked hard to lay and it seems not quite fair.

      I’m sure modern characters are covered by copyright so no one else can use them in new stories. For example I couldn’t borrow Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache and write my own stories about him without being sued. Guess I could make Oliver Twist the main character in my next adventure, with Charles Dickens as his uncle. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It is fuzzy territory. I think one must respect the author’s rights. To be inspired to write a story based on a character is one thing; to take the characters and bastardize them? Wrong on so many levels.

        If you can’t sell your books on your own merits, you don’t deserve to.

        I wonder if they are…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. My own opinions waver, depending on how blatant it seems, but I can leave it with those writers’ consciences and their lawyers. 🙂
        The estate of Dorothy Sayers commissioned another writer to finish her last work-in-progress and she did another Lord Peter Wimsey story, The Attenbury Emeralds. I have no problem with that.

        Liked by 1 person

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