In the wake of his scandal and arrest, Jussie Smollett may have only one supporter left: his publisher.
On January 29th, Jussie Smollett filed a police report, claiming to be the victim of violent assault. The details were graphic: while in Chicago, two men hurled racist and homophobic slurs at the Empireactor. The unknown men struck Smollett, poured a mysterious chemical substance onto his head, and wrapped a rope around his neck. When they shouted, “MAGA country,” their motivations could not have been more blatant: this was a hate crime.
Nearly a month later, the investigation appears to have revealed that this was not, in fact, the case.
Image Via Rappler
The police investigation swiftly changed direction when law enforcement discovered that Smollett knew the attackers personally. Police questioned Smollett’s redacted phone records and determined that Smollett had been in contact with both men before the incident. It wasn’t long before the story appeared to unravel: Smollett allegedly paid the two $3,500 to stage the attack over dissatisfaction with his $1 million salary, which amounts to $65,000 per episode. In the United States, the median household income is around $61,000.
On February 21st, the Empire actor was arrested for filing a false police report. These supposedly fraudulent allegations are especially troubling when considering their impact on real allegations—and real victims.
Image Via People
Fox Entertainment has avoided any direct comments on Smollett’s situation, “placing [its] trust in the legal system as the process plays out.” Nevertheless, the “disturbing” allegations’ impact on cast and crew members has led Fox to cut Smollett’s role from this season’s final episodes. Smollett’s career may also be on trial, but he’s got one more gig: his upcoming family cookbook, completed with siblings Jazz, Jurnee, and Jake.
Before actors and Food Network stars Jazz, Jake, Jurnee, and Jussie Smollett conquered Hollywood, they spent their childhood crisscrossing the United States. Moving coast to coast thirteen times, they car-tripped to small towns and big cities across America.
But no matter where they lived, two things remained constant: their incredible family feasts and the long, wooden kitchen table where they shared food and lived their lives. Each time they arrived in a new home, their mother would transform planks of hard wood into a smooth, varnished butcher block table in a beloved ritual that took three days. That hand-crafted table would become the heart of the Smollett clan, where the most important and cherished events and accomplishments, no matter how large or small, were honored, and where holidays were celebrated: Christmas, Easter, Passover, Chanukah, birthdays, milestones. With a mother from New Orleans and a Jewish father from New York who met and married in California, the Smollett kids were exposed to diverse culinary heritages and grew up open to all the deliciousness the world had to offer.
In this warm and personal book, the Smolletts invite us all to take a seat at their table and enjoy the good times and good food that help families thrive. The Family Table includes more than 130 delicious, comforting recipes that pay tribute to their past and present. These favorite recipes from the Smolletts are suitable for intimate dinners and fabulous feasts alike, but more than that, The Family Table is a remarkable portrait of a loving, all-American family, rich with traditions that they continue to build to this day.
This year has been a wild one in terms of publishing scandals… and, of course, February isn’t even over yet. So far, we’ve got the Jill Abramson plagiarism scandal; the cancellation of a YA debut due to accusations of racist themes; and the cancer lies, urine cups, and possible plagiarism nightmare in the whirlwind of Dan Mallory’s well-documented B.S. Just before the month comes to an end, we’ve got another scandal for you—plagiarism allegations against bestselling romance novelist Christiane Serruya. Fans might’ve fallen in love with her books, but they’re not head-over-heels for her behavior.
Image Via Goodreads
Christiane Serruya may have written the Trust trilogy, but she doesn’t exactly seem to be trustworthy. Fans of Courtney Milan‘s The Duchess Waralerted the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author to similarities between her novel and Serruya’s newest release. Sorry, did I say similarities? I meant that these passages are so similar they look like a children’s spot-the-difference game—is it the comma hiding in the background? Is it the slightly different word order? Take a look at the plagiarized passages and see for yourself why Milan’s next war won’t be fictional:
Milan: “Her nostrils flared; he almost thought she might stamp her foot and paw the ground, like an angry bull.”
Serruya: “Her nostrils flared; he almost thought she might stamp her foot and paw the ground, like the bull that had attacked Siobhan.”
Milan: “‘If you’re any good in bed, I might fall in love with you. If that is going to be anathema …’ ‘No,’ he said swiftly. He looked away from her, and when he spoke again, there was a slight rasp to his words. ‘No. That would be perfectly … unobjectionable.”
Serruya: “She stared back, both fascinated and appalled. ‘And if I fall in love with you? Is it going to be anathema?’ ‘No,’ he said swiftly, and looked away from her. There was a slight rasp to his words, when he faced her again. ‘No. That would be perfectly … unobjectionable.’”
Image Via San Diego Tribune
Milan has made her official statement on the situation—and it’s mostly (and understandably) an expression of anger:
I have not listed all of the similarities because, quite frankly, it is stomach-churning to read what someone else has done to butcher a story that I wrote with my whole heart … I wrote The Duchess War in the midst of a massive depressive spell and I bled for every word that I put on the page. But you know what? Cristiane Serruya has to be the biggest idiot out there. I’ve sold several hundred thousand copies of this book. I’ve given away several hundred thousand copies on top of that. Does she think that readers are never going to notice her blatant plagiarism?
As for Serruya’s own, original work, Milan dug deep: “no wonder you’re copying other authors, girl.” Yikes!
Serruya might have been a royal pain for Milan, but at least her response has been more appropriate than her actions. Immediately after the allegations went viral, Serruya pulled Royal Love from sale. Though she offered an apology, she also gave an excuse: according to Serruya, the ghostwriter she hired is responsible for the plagiarism.
Image Via Writers and Authors
Ghostwriters are legal and somewhat commonplace, particularly when it comes to bestsellers. World’s wealthiest author James Patterson has a whole team of ghostwriters (so, a team of Christmas elves who only talk about murder) to maintain his prolific output. Many celebrities use ghostwriters for their own memoirs as, let’s get real, it’s rare to be famous and a talented writer at the same time. While famous writers don’t need to be talented (which we can all agree on unless your Fifty Shades of Greyopinions are particularly intense) we can assume the combination is an unlikely one. Some fans may not be pleased with this explanation: ‘don’t worry that I didn’t write the book; it’s just that I didn’t write the book.’ But the explanation is logical, if not entirely satisfying.
Serruya called the allegations “distressing,” resolving to pull the book “until [she has] made certain this is solved.”
If you missed our earlier article on Mallory’s cancer lies, click the link or continue for a summary of the horrifying details. The thriller author’s recent notoriety should have been more fatal to his career than the cancer he falsely claimed to have. Instead, there have been few professional repercussions-a plot twist many attribute to Mallory’s race (white) and gender (male). Behaviors that may have doomed another writer or editor’s career-speaking in a fake British accent, allegedly leaving cups of urine around the office, pretending to have two PhDs while having exactly zero PhDs-seem benign when considering the big, ugly lies. Mallory did not have terminal cancer; his mother did not have terminal cancer; his father was not dead; his brother did not kill himself. The bigger, uglier truth, is that these falsehoods are unlikely to slow the sales of this runaway bestseller.
Mallory’s second novel is in the works. His publisher, William Morrow, has shown continued support.
Image Via Ny Times
To those just jumping in on the Dan-Mallory-is-a-liar bandwagon, you may be wondering, “could any of it really be true?” Bluntly, no. In an official apology (if that’s what his evasive statement actually was), Mallory admitted to his never having cancer. While he claimed his lies about a physical illness were to conceal his bipolar II diagnosis, psychology professionals say that the disorder would not cause organized, deliberate deception over an extended period of time. This was not an offhanded lie-Mallory impersonated his brother in emails, describing his (Mallory’s) own devastating wit and inspiring bravery in the face of terminal illness. Yikes. Also, all of his family members are distinctly not dead. So there’s that.
Unfortunately for everyone but Dan Mallory (and his loyal publisher), the novel was an instant #1 bestseller, the first debut to top the charts in eleven years. The resounding success of The Woman in the Window is no joke and no lie-but the novel itself may also have its basis in deception.
Image Via Sarah Denzil
A recent New York Times article has drawn comparisons between The Woman in the Window and Saving April, a 2016 bestseller from British author Sarah A. Denzil. If you don’t mind mild spoilers, let’s take a look at the similarities in a tidy, damning list form.
Both novels include the following:
Anxious, middle-aged female protagonists… One named Hannah, one named Anna…
…who discover something awful when spying through a window.
They discover something awful about their neighbors, who…
are an unhappily married couple and their troubled adopted child.
The troubled adopted child has a birth mother with substance abuse issues.
The protagonists are wracked with guilt over their past car crashes…
…which killed their husbands and young daughters…
all because they were distracted during a fight about their husband’s infidelity.
Unreliable narrators whose use of alcohol leads police not to trust them.
The same exact final plot twist.
“It is the EXACT same plot like down to the main characters’ back story,” reads an Amazon review comparing the two eerily similar novels. “Sorry but there’s no way the amount of stolen material is a coincidence.”
Image Via Ny Times
While it’s true that many crime novels share similar attributes, the timeline is also suspicious. Denzil’s novel hit shelves in early 2016; Mallory didn’t sell his novel until autumn of the same year. Mallory claims to have written his own thriller during summer 2015. Since he also claimed every member of his family was dead, his statement seems impossible to unilaterally believe. The Times article reports that Denzil has spoken out about her discomfort with the similarities-specifically, regret that some online reviewers believe Mallory’s book was the original. (It wasn’t.) Readers and writers across the Internet are asking the same question: is the book plagiarized?
Here’s a question with a more upsetting answer: if it is, will it matter?
The most effective accusations of plagiarism come when an author has copied another’s specific language or phrasing. Theft of creative intellectual property (plot points, characters) is much harder to prove-particularly in cases of genre fiction, where beloved tropes abound. As a result, most authors choose not to pursue legal action.
One such rare lawsuit occurred recently between fantasy authors Sherrilyn Kenyon (Dark-Hunter books) and Cassandra Clare (Shadowhunters franchise). The series are similar in the broadest sense: both feature demon-fighting characters who protect the ordinary world, ordinary objects imbued with magical powers, and swords with names. Though Kenyon’s claims were dubious, this particular case illuminates the problem of intellectual property suits.
Image Via Cassandra Clare
Sherrilyn Kenyon didn’t invent glowing swords, and Sarah A. Denzil didn’t invent unreliable female narrators. But Dan Mallory did sell his book after Saving April‘s successful release… and he’s lied about everything else. While it’s unlikely that Denzil will endure the financial and emotional burdens of a copyright lawsuit, it is regrettably even less likely that it would make a difference in the face of Mallory’s financial success.
In Nottingham Prison, the inmates are book fiends.
As part of a recent investment, the prison—deemed one of London’s “most challenging” correctional facilities—spent £1.4 million on a specialized drug testing machine. Apparently, the machine was worth the expense: not only did it detect a drug-smuggling operation, but it also gave us the wild story of just how mind-blowing Harry Potter can be. When the results came in, authorities determined that the inmates weren’t just hooked on reading.
Image Via BBc
The newly-purchased machine detected a “spice-like substance” sprayed onto the pages of J.K. Rowling’s childhood classic (and no, we’re not talking cardamom). Officials believe the book was doctored outside of the prison and then sent to inmates, a gift as seemingly—and falsely—innocent as Harry Potter fanfiction. By the time guards detected the deception, four hundred pages were missing from the volume. Authorities suspect inmates smoked the missing pages—guess the book was so good, they burned right through it.
Prisons Minister Rory Stewart has sworn to step down if prison conditions fail to improve. Although six of the ten prisons involved in the reforms have markedly changed their conditions, Nottingham remains one of two problem prisons, each “dangerous, disrespectful and drug ridden.” Yup, definitely the last one.
Dan Mallory is—in Dan Mallory’s own words—a man of discipline and compassion. Whatever else Dan Mallory may be seems to depend on who you ask. These are the facts that no one can obscure: Mallory’s novel under pseudonym A.J. Finn, The Woman in the Window, debuted at the top of the New York Times bestseller list, the first debut in twelve years to secure this prestigious spot. The novel (and, by extension, Mallory) rose to even higher heights, securing a blurb from international sensation Stephen King: “One of those rare books that really is unputdownable.” Though the novel was released in January 2018, the film adaptation has already been shot. This, we know: Mallory is a staggering success. But this is what insiders are beginning to suspect: Mallory is more than your average storyteller—he’s a liar.
Image Via Nathan Rabin
In person, Mallory is gregarious and appropriately self-effacing: he knows how successful he is, and, since you couldn’t possibly miss how successful he is, the least he can do is to be charmingly modest about it. According to an exposé in The New Yorker, he can do a little more than that. Journalist Ian Parker asserts that Dan Mallory has lied about death and dysfunction in a manner far beyond the possibility of misinterpretation. According to Dan Mallory, he has two PhDs—making him a “double doctor,” as he would occasionally joke. But (also according to Mallory) these successes haven’t come without tragedy: he and his mother both have terminal cancer; Mallory himself has ten more years to live. His father is dead. Oh, and his brother killed himself. Here’s the plot twist greater than any from Mallory’s stories: all three dead family members are alive.
Image Via BBC
In a story that seems ripped straight from the scripts of Netflix’s Sick Note(a show in which Rupert Grint portrays a man who lies about having cancer, alternate name “What If Ron Weasley Was The Worst Person Ever”), Mallory went as far as to fake emails from his brother. His ‘brother’ acted as a go-between when Dan was in surgery for his cancer, keeping Dan’s workplace up to date on his condition and, more importantly, is a ruse.
One email from Jake, Dan’s brother, reads:
[Dan is having] complicated surgery with several high risk factors, including the possibility of paralysis and/or the loss of function below the waist.” But Dan has been through worse and has pointed out that if he could make it through Love Actually alive, this surgery holds no terrors. [Dan will eat] an early dinner of sashimi and will then read a book about dogs until bedtime. Dan was treated terribly by people throughout his childhood and teenage years and into his twenties, which left him a very deeply lonely person, so he does not like/trust many people. Please keep him in your thoughts.
When a colleague later asked how Jake was, Mallory reported that Jake had killed himself.
Since, according to Mallory’s Oxford professors, Jake had died years before of complications with his equally fictional cerebral palsy, this sets up a perplexing timeline. Mallory had used his carefully-crafted tales of personal tragedy to earn acceptance to Oxford University. When the tactic failed to work on Princeton, Mallory sent a strongly-worded email—the strong words being, in this case, “you heartless bastards… not that I ever seriously considered gracing your godforsaken institution with my presence.” Is this one of those instinctual patterns where the egotistic and delusional lash out when they don’t get what they want? We can’t say. It appears that Mallory has always gotten what he wanted—no matter what tactics he used.
Mallory claimed in an email that Jake had been with him through a seven-hour nighttime surgery (though most surgeries of the nature he described do not take place overnight). At the same time, Jake posted pictures online of himself at an event. Jake claims that this email exchange never happened.
Image Via The TELEGRAPH
Mallory did not complete his doctorate at Oxford. (Of course, he did come back from the U.K. with a fake British accent. and a sudden impulse to do things like ‘take the lift’ and ‘use the loo.’)Though he did attend Oxford University, he left, due to his mother’s illness. According to Mallory’s father, Pamela Mallory did indeed have serious cancer throughout her son’s high school years. When asked what she thought of the matter, Pamela shut down the conversation before it began: “we’re not doing that.” The other half of Mallory’s ‘double-doctorate’ was a PhD in psychology—specifically, he claimed to have studied Munchausen’s Syndrome, a condition in which a patient pretends to have a physical or mental illness though they, in truth, have invented the symptoms. Mallory, apparently, invented this degree.
Mallory frequently gained job qualifications by lying about his qualifications and falsifying employment offers in order to pressure publishing companies into hiring him. When confronted about the job offer he did not receive, Mallory complained the woman who revealed the truth was a liar, angry because he had refused her sexual advances. A colleague expresses her doubts: “Once [the job offer] fell away, then you obviously think, Is he really ill? Even to the extent of ‘Does his family exist?’ and ‘Is he even called Dan Mallory?’” The truth was that Dan Mallory was really ill—it just wasn’t with cancer.
Mallory’s formal apology, if that is the appropriate name for it, addresses only his disingenuous battle with cancer. It does not address the cups of urine he allegedly left in his boss’ office directly before leaving his position. It does not address the email, also attributed to Mallory, calling a former co-worker “one of the nastiest c*nts in publishing.” It doesn’t address the suicide of his brother or the death of his father. It does address his bipolar II disorder, an illness he positions as the precarious keystone of his overarching lie:
It is the case that on numerous occasions in the past, I have stated, implied, or allowed others to believe that I was afflicted with a physical malady instead of a psychological one: cancer, specifically. My mother battled aggressive breast cancer starting when I was a teenager; it was the formative experience of my adolescent life, synonymous with pain and panic.
I felt intensely ashamed of my psychological struggles – they were my scariest, most sensitive secret. And for 15 years, even as I worked with psychotherapists, I was utterly terrified of what people would think of me if they knew – that they’d conclude I was defective in a way that I should be able to correct, or, worse still, that they wouldn’t believe me. Dissembling seemed the easier path.
Like many afflicted with severe bipolar II disorder, I experienced crushing depressions, delusional thoughts, morbid obsessions, and memory problems. It’s been horrific, not least because, in my distress, I did or said or believed things I would never ordinarily say, or do, or believe – things of which, in many instances, I have absolutely no recollection.
Esteemed psychiatrist Nigel Blackwood of King’s College London is perfectly willing to believe that Mallory has bipolar disorder. He’s just unwilling to believe that the disorder is the basis for Mallory’s deception—or that it’s a reasonable excuse. Patients may experience “periods of inflated self-esteem,” but, he emphasized, “[hypomanic episodes] cannot account for sustained arrogant and deceptive interpersonal behaviors.”
But literary agent Chis Parris-Lamb put it best: “if he is one of the lucky ones who has managed to get his disease under control and produce a best-selling novel—if he is stable and lucid enough to do that—then he is stable and lucid enough to apologize to the people he lied to and the people he hurt.”
Given that mental disorders already buckle under the weight of stigma, Mallory’s claims are unhelpful at best. At worst, they’re as damaging as his everything else—the lies, the tragedy, and the piss cups.