The other day my inbox received an unusual amount of traffic from my readers. They were all angry, worried, or some combination of the two.
It would seem that another author by the name of Russell Blake had just published a book titled Upon a Pale Horse. My readers were crying foul as they felt his book was a rip-off of my second novel Pestilence. I checked it out and based on the blurb I bought a copy. It was under 290 pages, so I plowed through it to see if what they were saying was true or not.
First, let me say this; I know Russell Blake, not personally, but in the sense that I’ve read a few of his books. I’ve visited his blog and we’ve been seen on some of the same self-publishing websites out there. He’s a fellow self-published author who writes in the same genre as I do. Based on what I’ve read on his blog he strikes me as a straight shooter.
“He stole your story!”
“Sue his sorry ass!”
My readers wanted blood. Some thought I should send him a C & D. Others wanted to flood the review sites with 1-stars calling him out. Some even suggested that I put on the war paint and book a flight to Mexico. (many of my readers are still employed by Uncle Sam)
I’m not doing any of these things. I did however send him an e-mail. In it I said I enjoyed his book, as well as his Jet series. I also invited him to check out Pestilence. I ended it with a line about great minds thinking alike.
Why was I not pissed off? I mean his book did have a lot of mine in it. We used the same biblical quote for the title and on the inside. Many of the key plot points were the same or very close. He backed his book up with real science linking to several journal articles and other sources, I quoted actual news headlines at the beginning of every chapter as I do with all of my books in this series. We both used the same McGuffin. I ended my book with a chapters-long chase scene through New York City. He ended his with some phone calls.
Are the books similar enough to warrant the reactions my readers are calling for? Maybe, but only if you really really want it.
Let me explain. What my readers don’t know is that this kind of thing happens all the time. We had the same idea and ideas can’t be copyrighted. Only the execution of the idea can be copyrighted. Therefore there is no legal basis for me to file a C&D.
As for calling him out on the internet, that I have no control over. I asked the people who contacted me not to, but I’m sure some will feel the need to do so anyway. Some voices will no doubt be heard in the various chat rooms or out on the blogs. I can only say here that this is NOT being encouraged by me. If you should feel the need to do so please understand that I do not agree with it.
As for putting on the war-paint. That was a long time ago. I still stay mission ready and keep my toolbox full, but I try to travel no farther than the beach these days, thank you.
I think any author who writes long enough will eventually have this happen to them at least once. If it should happen again…well, I’ll fight that battle then. It’ll get ugly and that’s all there is to it. Nobody will really win anything and the only gain may be the assurance that it won’t happen a third time. We’ll just have to wait and see.
For now, let’s all just let this go. Please. There are plenty of readers out there for both Russell Blake and Randall Wood. I see no reason why the readers can’t enjoy both books.
Besides, I’ve already determined that my version is the better of the two. 🙂