I love obvious rip-offs- especially the ones that really don't even try to hide that they're rip-offs. I wonder if low-budget meisters The Asylum, for example, hope that some granny who doesn't know any better will buy a copy of their movie Transmorphers for her grandson, thinking it's Transformers. Perhaps one day I'll give this subject the attention it deserves and write an entire article about The Asylum, or even the endless Italian Mad Max/Escape from New York rip-offs from the 70's and 80's.
But that'll be a big job. For now, I'll just describe briefly a trend in rip-offs that I've noticed over the last few years- Da Vinci Code rip-offs. It seems that since 2003, every bookshop has been obliged by law to carry at least a truckload of these damn things. So I decided to make a list of every title I could find in the Cork area. I didn't have to look too far. Many bookshops even helpfully lump them together on the same shelf, regardless of author.
I am not including 'factual' books that have been written to cash in on the success of the Da Vinci Code. There's lots of them out there, each promising 'revelations' that will rock the Church to its very blah blah blah. They're a different, though definitely related subject. I am including fiction that was written or published before the Da Vinci Code, but was re-published with new titles or covers to cash in. These aren't rip-offs, but are being marketed as such.
So- what do these books have in common? I'm assigning a 'points' system to analyze this issue in the true depth it obviously deserves. While many of the aspects listed below are also features of paperback thrillers in general, I feel that enough of them are specific enough to help separate 'Da Vinci Code Rip-Offs' as their own sub-genre.
1) They will feature a secret or conspiracy from ancient or medieval history. (2 points)
2) The conspiracy will 'rock' the (usually Catholic) Church 'to it's foundations'. (5 points)
3) Various famous and interesting artists and scientists from history will be implicated in this conspiracy. (3 points)
4) Cutting-edge modern technology (often genetics) will be used to help uncover these secrets from the past. (2 points)
5) THE FRIGGIN' TEMPLARS. THAT IS ALL. (20 POINTS)
5) The main character will be an expert in some field relevant to the conspiracy (more often than not an archaeologist). He will be male, and an American. (3 points)
6) He will travel to various exotic locations around the world, with Rome or the Vatican almost always being on the itinerary. (5 points)
7) The prologue will take place hundreds of years in the past, usually in Rome or the Vatican (sometimes elsewhere in Italy). (5 points)
8) The cover will show
- an age-old scroll or parchment (10 points)
- a wax seal (3 points)
- some Christian iconography (3 points)
- the inside of a church or cathedral with a row of cowled monks (5 points)
-prominently-placed Templars (20 points)
9) The title of the book will have three words, including the words 'the' and 'code'. ( 10 points)
Pretty good, eh? From now on, you can rate every book you read and find out how Dan Brown-ish it is. Hell, on this scale, even that navel-gazing tripe-bucket The Secret gets an 18-point rating (largely on account of the thumping HUGE wax seal on the cover), and the Old Testament itself gets a whopping 15 points! There's a little Dan Brown in us all, I guess.
Anyway, here's the list-
The Messiah Code- Michael Cordy
The Genesis Code- John Case
The Gaudi Key- Esteban Martin & Andreu Carranza
The Sacred Bones- Michael Byrnes
The Judas Strain- James Rollins
The Gospel of Judas- Kasser & Mayer
The Last Gospel- David Gibbons
The Last Templar- Raymond Khoury
The Last Testament- Sam Bourne
The Sanctuary- Raymond Khoury
The Righteous Men- Sam Bourne
The Templar Legacy- Steve Berry
The Alexandria Link- Steve Berry
The Venetian Betrayal- Steve Berry
The Shakespeare Secret- Jennifer Lee Carrell
The Sign of the Cross- Chris Kuzneski
The Assassini- Thomas Gifford
Garden of Evil- Mayer
Crusader Gold- David Gibbins