Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Recycling

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 10 Jul 2001

Anthony wrote:

"A writer data mines within their own body of work ... so what?"

I wasn't aware that anyone here had placed a value judgement on this practice. I certainly didn't when I brought the subject up. I found it very interesting how McBain converted earlier short story material in Mugger, what he retained, what he adapted. I think it gives us insight into a writer's craft (same reason people want to study an author's various drafts or editions). This is especially true of the stories in Chandler's Killer In the Rain anthology. It's very interesting to see how those plots became subplots in his later novels.

I wonder, though, if any publishers have tried to sue, or get remuneration for authors' recycling of stories on which they might hold the copyright. In music, didn't Saul Zaentz (sp?) sue John Fogerty for recycling his own tune, Run Through the Jungle (for which Zantz held the copyright) in Old Man Down the Road? I think it was settled, so there was no legal precedent, but couldn't the same happen with fiction? I know people have at least threatened to sue over stolen plots (John MacDonald over Dimitri Gat's borrowings in his Nevsky books), so couldn't a copyright holder, at least theoretically (and where there's a legal theory, there's usually a lawyer), sue an author for borrowing from himself? Has this happened?


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