- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 6, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - The publisher of a novel about Edgar Allan Poe’s child bride defended the book against allegations that its author, Lenore Hart, lifted material from another work about Poe’s young wife.

St. Martin's Press released a brief statement Tuesday saying it had compared Hart’s “The Raven’s Bride” to Cothburn O’Neal’s “The Very Young Mrs. Poe” and found any similarities limited to the inevitable overlap of two novels covering the same subject: Virginia Clemm, who married Poe when she was 13 years old.

St. Martin's said Hart had supplied a detailed response that cited her biographical and historical research.

“As Ms. Hart explained in her response, of course two novels about the same historical figure necessarily reliant on the same limited historical record will have similarities,” the statement read. “We have reviewed that response and remain satisfied with Ms. Hart’s explanation.”

British author Jeremy Duns has posted numerous excerpts on his blog _ http://jeremyduns.blogspot.com _ noting the two books share not just plot points, but language and even invention. In November, Little, Brown and Company pulled Q.R. Markham’s “Assassin of Secrets” after Duns and others had noted the novel had taken material from numerous other books.

“How utterly absurd and frustrating of them,” Duns wrote in an email Tuesday about St. Martin's statement. “As I repeatedly pointed out, Hart stole scenes and passages that O’Neal invented for his novel; i.e. they never happened.” He added that the “level of precise language” the novels have in common “cannot be coincidence.”

O’Neal’s book was published in 1956. The author died in 2001.

A sample passage from his book reads: “Beyond Hopewell and the confluence of the Appomattox, the James grew narrower and wound in great loops around Bermuda Hundred. Further on, the current was swifter, foaming against gray boulders and lush green islands which twisted the channel torturously.”

A passage from “The Raven’s Bride,” published early this year, reads: “Beyond the confluence of the Appomattox, the James grew narrower and wound in great loops about Bermuda Hundred. The current ran more swiftly there, shoving its relentless force against gray rocks and lush low peninsulas which twisted the channel into a shallow treacherous serpent whose narrow back we must ride.”

Duns and Hart exchanged angry messages last month on Hart’s Facebook page. In the messages, Duns repeatedly pointed out similarities between her book and O’Neal’s while Hart, whose previous novels include “Ordinary Springs” and “Becky,” denied any impropriety. (The messages have since been deleted).

In an interview in May with the online magazine http://www.bookslut.com, Hart acknowledged reading O’Neal’s book, but only after she had turned in a “corrected draft” of her novel.

“I was engaged with it in some places and bored in others,” she said, adding her “apologies to the late Mr. O’Neal.”

“A lot of his exposition is rendered in summary punctuated with lots of long, rather too lofty conversations,” she said. “The two novels might feel similar for other reasons: We both write about the same real people and real events, not fictional ones either of us had created out of thin air. We both told the story of HER life.”

Sales have been slow for Hart’s book and the paperback is “bargain priced” on Amazon.com at $6.24. As of Tuesday afternoon, it ranked 989,250 on Amazon.