- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 22, 2005

LONDON — Dan Brown, author of “The Da Vinci Code,” is to face a High Court action in London this week brought by the authors of the 1982 nonfiction book, “The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail,” who say that his blockbuster was based on their decade of research.

Speaking ahead of a preliminary hearing of the case, Richard Leigh, 62, one of the writers, said: “I don’t begrudge Brown his success. I have no particular grievance against him, except for the fact that he wrote a pretty bad novel.”

Mr. Leigh, an American who has lived in England since 1974, and Michael Baigent, 57, a New Zealander, his co-author, are suing Random House, Mr. Brown’s publishers, for infringement of their ideas.

They are funding the action with the proceeds of their book, which Random House has reissued in a special $35 hardback edition to cash in on the success of Mr. Brown’s novel.

Henry Lincoln, 75, a Londoner who also co-wrote the book, is ill and has decided to remain out of the action.

A two-week trial is scheduled for the end of February, with both sides assembling formidable legal teams.

If a judge backs the action, the British release in May of Sony Pictures’s film of “The Da Vinci Code” may be delayed.

“A reason that this case is so important is that it can create a precedent in copyright law across the world of entertainment,” said Paul Sutton, a lawyer for the writers.

With “The Da Vinci Code” selling 29 million copies in 42 languages, Mr. Brown is the world’s highest paid author, earning about $80 million last year.

While his book has been attacked as nonsense by the Vatican, “The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail” came under fire from the Anglican Church, for its suggestion that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and their descendants became kings of ancient France.

“The book caused a fairly substantial flap at the time, both here and in the United States. We were very careful to state that in synthesizing the material, we were presenting a hypothesis.” Mr. Leigh said.

Intriguingly, the only mention of his book in “The Da Vinci Code” is when its villain, an eccentric English historian called Sir Leigh Teabing, lifts a copy off his bookshelf and says: “The authors made some dubious leaps of faith in their analysis, but their fundamental premise is sound.”

Mr. Leigh said: “None of us can work out why he did that. Was it a jokey homage, or a nudge, nudge, wink, wink?”

Mr. Brown, 40, who lives in Exeter, New Hampshire, said when asked about the historical “underpinnings” of his novel, that “information has been out there for a long time, and there have been a lot of books about this theory.

“The interesting thing is that they’re all history tomes that sit in the back corner of bookstores,” he said. “‘The Da Vinci Code’ has taken a lot of that information and put it into a different genre, and there’s an enormous part of the population now that’s hearing this for the first time. And it feels brand new.”

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