Last October, I logged on to Twitter to find that I was now being followed by an account with the username @DonnaPatel. Something made me click on this particular link to see who it was. Call it intuition.
Donna Patel described herself as an “aspie” and “Potterhead”, and her most recent interaction had been with an Irish author calling herself “Joanne Clancy”.
Donna had been reading Clancy’s latest book, Tear Drop, a thriller about the hunt for a serial killer in Cork. At the time, it was the 111th biggest-selling e-book on Amazon’s UK division, and the number-one bestseller in Irish crime fiction, and Donna Patel had a simple question for the author: “Are you Ingrid Black?”
Next day, having received no reply to her message, Donna sent another tweet to the same account, saying: “Your book Tear Drop is The Dead by Ingrid Black.” Shortly afterwards, a third: “So you must be one of the authors behind Ingrid Black, or you are plagiarising.” Shortly afterwards, Joanne Clancy had deleted her account.
I found this exchange particularly interesting, and for a very good reason.
I am Ingrid Black.
One half of Ingrid Black, to be precise. She is a pseudonym, adopted more than 10 years ago for a joint crime-writing project between myself and my co-author and partner, Ian McConnell, and The Dead was our first book.
. . . .
By this time, however, the editor at Penguin who had championed the books had left for Australia, and, sadly, our new agent died. Feeling like we were back at square one, and not knowing how to start over, Ingrid Black slipped off the radar. In time, the books fell out of print and copyright reverted to us as the original authors.
At various points over the next few years, we toyed with the idea of releasing the Saxon stories as e-books. It seemed silly not to. They represented many years of work. Why not give them a new lease of life?
We set up a Twitter account in the name of Ingrid Black to prepare for publication. Our first tweet: “Now all I have to do is figure out how you put a book on Kindle, and I’ll be a millionaire by Christmas. That’s how it works, right?” Though, of course, it wasn’t done by that Christmas. Or the next one. Procrastination was our middle name.
We’d only sent six tweets and had less than 100 followers when, in October, we logged on to Twitter to see Donna Patel accuse Joanne Clancy of plagiarising The Dead.
. . . .
The first step was to find out if there was any truth to that allegation. Amazon’s summary of the book in question, which had been released in August 2015, certainly sounded familiar: “The serial killer known as Tear Drop vanished almost a decade ago, and nothing has been heard from him . . . until now. As death stalks the dark streets of Cork City, Detective Elizabeth Ireland must embark upon a frightening psychological journey to uncover the killer’s identity.”
Still, a blurb wasn’t conclusive proof; there are only a limited number of plots. So Ian and I downloaded a free sample and started reading Chapter One. The truth soon became apparent. Donna Patel was right.
Tear Drop wasn’t simply similar to The Dead.
It was The Dead. Everything about it was the same, from the plot to the protagonist’s sarcastic manner of speaking, to the jokes, to the very structure of the sentences and paragraphs.
. . . .
Once more, detail by detail, our book was being raided and filleted in front of my eyes. Tear Drop had been put together by someone who had The Dead open at the side of the keyboard as they typed.
I knew I had to read to the end. Gritting my teeth, I paid to download Tear Drop on to my Kindle. I didn’t have much doubt what I would find, but it was still a shock to find all my worst suspicions confirmed.
. . . .
Not only that, but it was doing well enough to be among the most downloaded books on Kindle at the time, and to be top of the charts in Ireland. It was also being widely, and enthusiastically, reviewed by fellow authors and crime-fiction fans, both on Amazon and elsewhere across the internet, many of whom were hailing it as Joanne Clancy’s best book to date.
“Personally, I really do not know how she came up with the superb storyline,” said one.
. . . .
Google searches discovered a few more facts about Joanne Clancy. There were a number of photographs purporting to be of her, which could be found online. She was listed on the professional networking site LinkedIn, where she was described as an “Amazon bestselling author and creative entrepreneur”. She had a Facebook page, which I bookmarked for later reference, but within 24 hours that, too, had been taken down.
. . . .
A few days after emailing the mysterious Joanne Clancy, I checked the email account we had set up for Iseult O’Malley and found that Clancy had replied to our fictional student: “Thanks a million for contacting me. My apologies for not replying sooner, but my website’s been having a few glitches, which have just been fixed.”
She agreed to an interview, but only by email, adding: “I look forward to hearing from you. Best wishes, Joanne.”
We began to feel almost bad for tricking her. This was one of the strangest aspects of the whole affair. What Joanne Clancy had done was devious, and yet, without knowing why she’d done it, it was hard to know how we felt about her. We kept changing our minds. What if she genuinely had no idea that she was doing anything wrong?
. . . .
Within hours of the publication of Insincere, we finally submitted a complaint to Amazon on the grounds of copyright infringement.
Link to the rest at Independent.ie and thanks to Craig for the tip.