One of the weirdest scams Writer Beware ever followed just got a little stranger.
(A mini-refresher: Christopher Hill of Hill & Hill Literary Agency was an Edinburgh-based fee-charger who went to extraordinary lengths to convince his clients that he was working on their behalf, including fabricating reams of documentation: submission records, publisher acceptance emails, even publishing contracts. When he could no longer keep all the scam balls in the air, he torpedoed his own operation by posing as a victim. I covered the scam last year in a series of blog posts. There’s also a lengthy thread at Absolute Write, with many posts from writers he conned.)
Over at the Dear Author blog, Top 10 Tips for Plagiarists exposes the fact that author Lanaia Lee, whose novel Of Atlantis is about to be released via self-pub service Roval Publishing, appears to have plagiarized well-known speculative fiction author David Gemmell’s novel about Alexander the Great, Dark Prince. (More coverage of the flap from Jim Macdonald over at Making Light.)
A frothing mob of torch-wielding villagers, righteously enraged at such wanton pillaging of a literary legend, rushed over to Lanaia’s website to post angry comments on her message board. Defending herself, she first said (I’m reproducing her comments exactly as written):
Of Atlantis is totally mine. I have the original manuscript, and witnesses to my work. I put two years of my life in this book, the copy right, I own. I am appalled some one would think I am that dishonesy!
Later, she amended that a bit:
When I first started Of Atlantis, I hire a ghost writer Christopher Hill. I see what he did now and for that I aplogize. I was scammed. I apologize to Mr. Hemmel’s memory and his family.
I believe she’s telling the truth, folks.
This past June–months after the Hill & Hill insanity seemed to have concluded–Lanaia (not her real name) contacted me via Writer Beware to let me know that Christopher Hill was still in Edinburgh, still actively impersonating a literary agent. She told me that he solicited her as a client in June 2005, as a result of some of her online writings. She signed with him for a different novel, Chamber of Time, which he eventually claimed not to have been able to sell.
In September 2006, a former Hill client in Australia alerted Lanaia to the fact that Hill was a lying scambag. She confronted him, but he managed to sweet-talk her out of her misgivings. She then started the Atlantis book. Always helpful, Hill offered his services as a ghostwriter. From sometime in the fall of 2006 until May of 2007, she paid him $400 per month through PayPal. In the spring of 2007, he faked up a contract offer from Gryphon Publishing (there are a number of publishers by this name, so I’m not sure which one was meant), but eventually got tired of shining Lanaia on and blew her off with the following email, which she forwarded me a copy of:
Before you keep ranting on here is the manuscript as of now you are on my blocked list so do not bother trying to reply. We had no contract binding anything, the work I did is now yours I give you full copyright consent here. I wish you well for the future.
Attached to the email was a manuscript called The Chronicles of Archimedes. Judging by the often awkward writing, most of it is non-plagiarized–and may indeed have been “ghostwritten,” because while a lot of it is written out like a novel, some of it is synopsis. Also, Lanaia is American, but the written-out portions of the ms. employ British spelling, lending credence to Lanaia’s claim that Hill rewrote her novel. At the front of the ms. is stuck the entire first chapter of Gemmell’s Dark Prince, with the names changed to match those of the characters in the rest of the manuscript.
I find it completely plausible that the ripoff of Gemmell was Hill’s work, not Lanaia’s. It would be absolutely typical of Hill to do something like this to screw over a client–especially one who’d twigged to his scam. His whole deal was false promises and head games, fakery and bullshit and general psychological torment. If she’d never read Gemmell, there’s no reason why Lanaia would have recognized that stolen chapter.
So score one more for you, Chris, you sleazy weasel…almost. Because you can’t outwit Writer Beware.