Smart Bitches, Trashy Books


Alleged Response from Cassie Edwards Issued via MySpace
January 14, 2008, 1:29 pm
Filed under: Cassie Edwards Investigation

Thanks to Nikki, who posted the following in the comments of our previous entry, we have the text of what is allegedly a response from Cassie Edwards issued via her MySpace account:

————————— Original Message
From: Cassie Edwards
Date: Jan 11, 2008 11:58 AM

Hi, Lisa,
I just got on My Space and I found your wonderful encouraging letter. Thank you for believing in me, for I have done nothing wrong. My publisher is standing behind me 100%, for they know my work better than anyone, and they know that all romance authors who use research for historicals have to use reference books to do this. My readers love this accurate material about the Indians. And if I couldn’t use this material my books would not be worth anything to my readers who depend on me.

The sad thing is that I am writing these books now in a way to honor our Native Americans, past, present and in the future. And I am honoring my great grandmother who was a full blood Cheyenne. She would be so proud of me if she could read what I am writing about the Indians who have been so maligned for so long. And do you know? I feel picked on now as our Native American Indians have always been picked on throughout history. I am trying to spread the word about them and what do I get? Spiteful women who have found a way to bring attention to themselves, by getting in the media in this horrible way.

Right now I am getting hit from all sides….CNN, The New York Times, AP, everyone who those women could think of to contact. And what is also sad is that a fellow author, has spoken up and condemned me.

Thanks again for your support. When I am feeling stronger I plan to write a bulletin on My Space, but right now I am totally drained of energy from what has been done to me. I hope that you will tell your friends, who are so much also mine, the wrong that has been done to me, and tell them that I will get through this. I will be found innocent and vendicated of any wrong.

For now, it’s all too raw and horrible, but I will be alright.
Love, Cassie



Cassie Edwards: Remarkable Similarities to Pulitzer-Winning Novel, Laughing Boy
January 14, 2008, 3:27 am
Filed under: Cassie Edwards Investigation

When Amy, one of our readers, contacted us and volunteered to check some Cassie Edwards novels for us, I said “Sure!” and expected more examples that have been typical to the pattern: passages lifted from old ethnographies or Native American memoirs, with scattered instances of wildlife articles from conservation organizations or encyclopedias. Several other readers have volunteered to look at various Cassie Edwards novels, and I was going to compile these instances into the PDF I’d created to document everything, and update the PDF without creating any new posts, because really, we’ve made our point: the instances are widespread and egregious, and people who aren’t interested in tracking this closely don’t need to have their faces rubbed with blow-by-blow updates.

What I didn’t expect in my inbox last night was a comparison from Amy detailing the similarities between passages in Savage Dream and Laughing Boy by Oliver La Farge.

Laughing Boy, unlike the other works, is not an ethnography, academic book or memoir. Laughing Boy is not only still under copyright, it is a fictional novel published in 1929, winning the Pulitzer in 1930.

This, in my opinion, drives the sheer wrongness of what happened to new heights. Using passages, word-for-word, of research material still isn’t a good thing by a long shot, but I can understand somebody being confused about the protocols of how much to acknowledge in a work of fiction. Using descriptive passages from another work of fiction, however, changes the tenor entirely. I talked to Sarah about posting this–I was very leery of driving the point into the ground when it’s been made with ample clarity–and we both agreed it was a different thing than the multitudes of other instances we’ve found, and that this deserved its own post.

Below is the table Amy compiled, comparing Savage Dream with Laughing Boy. I’m not bothering to include the reference works used in Savage Dream; I’ll be updating the PDF in a few hours and you can just look at that. I want to focus on the fact that this particular instances involves a work of fiction, and how it changes the tenor of the situation in a fundamental way.

Savage Dream (2003, ISBN 0-7862-5881-0, Thorndike Press [Large print edition]. First published 1990, Dorchester) Laughing Boy by Oliver La Farge (2004, ISBN 0618446729, Houghton Mifflin)
At first light the desert is intimate, and somehow Shadow felt the presence of others as an intrusion this morning. …the blinding light of full day had not yet supplanted the soft greys of dawn, the uncertain forms and shapes of the cliffs had not yet become harsh with daylight, and the canyons were still soft with wells of coolness. The world was a secret place to each man…
p. 59

…and then rode into a canyon, its cliffs harsh by daylight, yet looming soft with coolness.
p. 416

At the first light, before dawn, the desert is intimate, and each man feels the presence of others as an intrusion. Blinding colour has not supplanted soft greys, uncertain forms; cliffs harsh by daylight, and thunderous-walled cañons loom soft with wells of coolness. The east is white—mother-of-pearl—the world is secret to each one’s self.
p. 42
Little and compact, he was like an arrow notched to a taut bowstring. A movement of the hand would send him flying swiftly to a mark.
p. 61
Little, compact, all black save for the tiny white spot on her forehead, she had the ugly Roman nose of character. She was like an arrow notched to a taut bowstring—a movement of the hand would release level flight swiftly to a mark.
p. 4
Shadow gazed with admiration at Racer, at his sleek, gleaming haunches, the bunched muscles at the juncture of his shoulder and chest, the ripple of light and shadow on his withers, his arched neck and smooth head, and the character and intelligence of his eyes.
p. 60-61
The chestnut stallion was coming into its strength, gleaming, round quarters, bunched muscles at the juncture of the throat and chest, a ripple of highlight and shadow on the withers, arched neck, pricked small Arab ears, bony head, eyes and nostrils of character and intelligence.
p. 157
As the insides of Shadow’s calves touched his horse’s barrel, he felt a current run through them and felt at peace with himself…at home. He was a skilled horseman, having spent half of his waking hours on a horse’s back. Not even the longest day of riding had ever destroyed his pleasure in the mile-eating lope of his stallion.
p. 61-62
Her man was a Navajo and a horseman; when he settled in the saddle, as the sides of his calves touched his pony’s barrel, and he felt the one current run through them, there was always that little look of uplift. Probably half of his waking life had been spent on a horse’s back, but not the longest day could destroy in him a certain pleasure in even the workaday jog or mechanical, mile-eating lope of a good pony.
p. 93
…Shadow swung himself into his high-cantled Navaho saddle with its seat of stamped leather held together with silver nails and draped with a dyed goatskin.
p. 61
The high-cantled navajo saddle he had made for her, with its seat of slung leather over which a dyed goatskin was thrown…
p. 93
Beyond were red-brown cliffs, dull orange bald rock, and yellow sand, leading away to blend into a kind of purplish brown with hazy blue mountains for background.
p. 63
Beyond its level were red-brown cliffs, dull orange bald-rock, yellow sand, leading away to blend into a kind of purplish brown with blue clouds of mountains for background.
p. 115
Looking up, he saw magnificent dark firs growing along the ledges. Up there, the ruddy rock, touched by sunlight, became dull orange and buff with flecks of gold and a golden line where the earth met a cloudless sky.
p. 63
Looking up, one saw magnificent, dark firs growing along the ledges and hanging valleys. Up there, the ruddy rock, touched by the sunlight, became dull orange and buff, with flecks of gold, and a golden line where it met a …” (free Google preview ended here)
p. 100
It was now late afternoon and sandy dust was rising from the trail in clouds.
p. 87
Midday was warm, sandy dust rose from the trail in clouds.
p. 157
He had brought her to a high place after a fatiguing, scrambling climb, alleviated by the increasing growth of jack pine and spruce. They were following a winding path under firs; warm golden cliffs, painted with red and purplish brown and luminous shadows, loomed straight ahead.
p. 89
Now they were come among warm, golden cliffs, painted with red and purplish brown and luminous shadows, a broken country that changed with the changing sun, narrow canons, great mesas, yellow sands, and distant, blue mountains.
p. 95 [also, the “fatiguing, scrambling climb” “jack pine and spruce” and “wandering path under firs” bits get a Google hit with Laughing Boy p. 96, but it is unavailable for view.]
Below, the world was red in late afternoon sunlight where fierce, narrow canyons were ribboned with shadow and the lesser hills were streaked with opaque purple shadows like deep holes in the world.
p. 89
It was red in the late sunlight, fierce, narrow canons with ribbons of shadow, broad valleys and lesser hills streaked with purple opaque shadows like deep holes in the world, …
(Laughing Boy, as quoted in Native American Identities: From Stereotype to Archetype in Art and Literature, Page 59, available as a snippet preview on GoogleBooks)
There was shade and peace and coolness with a sweet smell of dampness.
p. 89
Here was all shade and peace, soft, grey stone, dark, shadowed green, coolness, and the sweet smell of dampness.
p. 19
Along the cliff was a long ledge, with the rock above it rising in a concave shell of light reflected under shadow.
p. 89
Along the north cliff was a long ledge, with the rock above it rising in a concave shell of light reflected under shadow.
p. 101
The world was full of the roar of hooves. The saddles and bridles were heavy with silver and brass as the Navaho leaned forward over their steeds’ necks, shrieking “E-e-e-e!” …
p. 108

The world became full of a roar of hooves and noise rushing together, the boys leaning forward over their horses’ necks, their mouths wide as they shouted, “E-e-e-e”!
p. 228-229

The world was full of a roar of hooves and two walls of noise rushing together, the men leaning forward over their horses’ necks, mouths wide. “Eeeee!”
p. 3
Charging Falcon staked his horse out where uncropped spears of grass stood singly, each inches from the next, in brown sand. A beaten track toward an oak tree and a break in the rock caught his eye. He followed it. Behind the oak, currant bushes grew in a niche of red rock, like a fold in a giant curtain. At the back was a full grown, lofty fir tree. Behind the tree a cleft opened at shoulder height into dark shadow. The footholds were worn to velvety roundness.
p. 201
Laughing Boy took the horses down to the windmill for water, and staked them out in a corner where uncropped spears of grass stood singly, each inches from the next, in brown sand. A beaten track toward an oak tree and a break in the rock caught his eye. A spring, perhaps. He followed it. Behind the oak, currant bushes grew hi a niche of red rock like the fold of a giant curtain. At the back was a full-grown, lofty fir. A spring, surely. Behind the fir a cleft opened at shoulder height into transparent shadow. The footholds were worn to velvety roundness in the sandstone…
p. 18
They met in a great swirl of plunging, dodging horses and swept on, all together, whooping for dear life, with some holding lances, others grasping shields.
p. 229
They met in a great swirl of plunging, dodging horses, and swept on all together, whooping for dear life, with the staff in front of them, almost onto the …[preview ended here]
p. 3
Silver and stones with soft highlights and deep shadows hung around her neck, glowing against her buckskin dress. Oval plaques of silver surrounded her waist; ceremonial jewels were sewn in the fringes of a sash that was draped across one shoulder. She wore moccasins with silver buttons shining at their sides.
p. 472
She was well dressed to show off what she wore; silver and stones with soft highlights and deep shadows glowed against the night-blue velveteen of her blouse; oval plaques of silver were at her waist, and ceremonial jewels in the fringe of her sash. Her blue skirt swung with her short, calculated steps, ankle-length, above the dull red leggings and moccasins with silver buttons.
p. 6
Maria blushed when two small naked boys brought ears of roasted corn on a wooden platter … Several women came and placed broiled goats’ ribs and corn bread before them.
p. 474
Where they went, they reclined on sheepskins, while two small naked boys brought ears of corn as they were roasted, and calm women set broiled goats’ ribs and corn bread before them.
p. 12



The New York Times Arts Section Carries the Story
January 12, 2008, 3:09 pm
Filed under: Cassie Edwards Investigation

An article about the Cassie Edwards controversy is in today’s New York Times Arts section, (login may be required). Mostly a summary of the incident, it highlights the ethical points we’ve debated, and links to the masterfully huge PDF Candy constructed that lines up the passages we found. Yay Candy!

I also have word from Michelle Styles that an article appeared in the Telegraph under the headline Romantic novelists out of love over plagiarism.



UPDATE: New Statement from Signet regarding Cassie Edwards
January 11, 2008, 7:08 pm
Filed under: Cassie Edwards Investigation

Fresh from my inbox, a statement from a Signet spokesperson:

Our original comments were based on Signet’s review of a limited selection of passages. We believe the situation deserves further review. Therefore we will be examining all of Ms. Edwards’ books that we publish, and based on the outcome of that review we will take action to handle the matter accordingly.  We want to make it known that Signet takes any and all allegations of plagiarism very seriously.



Centralized PDF of all Passages
January 11, 2008, 4:25 pm
Filed under: Cassie Edwards Investigation

I realized recently that all the information we’ve uncovered regarding the Cassie Edwards situation is scattered all over the place. Granted, Sarah and I have been pretty good about keeping that little header bar updated, but it’s still a pain in the ass to click all over when all you want is to specifically see which books have been looked into, how many passages we’ve found, how the passages compare, etc.

So I created a little Word document and converted it to PDF to track this little controversy. It is also available for download here: CassieEdwards.pdf

It’s by no means complete yet–I’m still waiting to hear from two people about a few books they’re researching, and I might’ve forgotten to include one or two titles. Also, none of the links are clickable, as I’m working from my laptop and my Acrobat Distiller isn’t working properly for some reason; once I have access to my desktop (where my Acrobat behaves just fine), that will hopefully be remedied. As it stands, however, what we have are:

  • Seven Cassie Edwards novels: three from Signet, one from Topaz, two from Dorchester and one from Zebra, ranging in publication date from 1983 to 2007
  • Fourteen outside sources: thirteen of them non-fiction, one of them a collection of short stories
  • More passages than I care to count at the moment
  • And a paaaaartridge in a pear tree

Let me know if you spot any mistakes, have any questions or want to make suggestions on how to make it more usable or readable.



The Debate Continues
January 11, 2008, 4:23 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The story is in the AP and therefore in USA Today, the New York Times, and various local newspapers from Oklahoma City, OK, to Morris County, NJ.

Hi there, newspaper readers. Hayadoin?

My point is, this isn’t a blog story anymore, and it’s not just a concern for the romance community, either. It’s a national story about what is and what isn’t plagiarism. Candy, myself, Jane at Dear Author, Nora Roberts and other readers say it is. Signet Publishing and Cassie Edwards say it is not.

Some of the comments I’ve seen on our site and in my inbox sent to me personally ask in irate tones how dare we, why didn’t we pursue it privately, and how can we BE so MEAN!?

Accusations as to Candy’s and my morality notwithstanding, this isn’t really about Cassie Edwards so much as it is a debate of ethics. The entries we’ve posted as to the passages that match her novels speak for themselves. This became about plagiarism and the ethical debate surrounding fair use the minute Signet said she’d “done nothing wrong.” I personally, as a reader, consumer, and writer, think there is something very wrong when sections of dialogue in a fictional novel match a previously published source identically and without attribution, particularly when the novel in question is published by a bestselling, nationally recognized author and thus she and her publisher presumably profit from the contents therein.

In my opinion, the debate here isn’t about reputation and HOW we should handle information on this site. The question for me at this point is HOW the romance writing community, including writers, readers and publishers, responds to plagiarism, and so far, I’m deeply amazed and cheering on the readers who say, “That is NOT right and I’m writing to Signet, and Penguin/Putnam to say so.”

As a wise friend of mine, RB, just said: “In the modern age, everyone’s a writer.” All our blogs and journals and published and digitally published works all constitute writing. A good writer cites their sources, acknowledges them, and in my opinion does not drop identical passages without attribution to the original writer.

Moreover, for every hate email I have in my inbox, I have readers who grabbed an Edwards novel and did their own research by not only searching online but taking a trek to the library to consult additional sources.

(Want to move on to other Smart Bitch topics? I’ve got a Friday video today that will make you snort liquid up your nose. I recommend you put down the beverage before you watch it. It’s like whoa, merde, and mon dieu.)



AP Article Features Response from Nora Roberts
January 11, 2008, 2:38 am
Filed under: Cassie Edwards Investigation

Nora Roberts has been quoted in a revised AP article regarding the Cassie Edwards story:

Roberts, whose fiction has sold hundreds of millions of copies, told The Associated Press on Thursday that “it seems clear” Edwards acted improperly.

“Given the side-by-side comparisons I’ve read, it seems clear Ms. Edwards copied considerable portions of previously published work and used them in her books without attribution to the original source,” Roberts wrote in an e-mail to the AP. “By my definition, copying another’s work and passing it as your own equals plagiarism. As a writer, a reader and a victim of plagiarism, I feel very strongly on this issue. I’m not a lawyer, but I can’t see it as fair use, or fair anything when one writer takes another’s work.”

Both Roberts and Edwards are published by Penguin Group (USA), which on Wednesday defended Edwards, saying: “She has done nothing wrong.”