Book Beat: James Barry Backlash, #CopyPasteCris, and They Both Die at the End

Happy Thursday Book Lovers! Christa here with your book news of the week, and I’m telling you to buckle in. It’s been a wild news week.

Backlash Hits the Upcoming James Barry Novel

This past week in Publishers Marketplace, a novel about the 19th-century surgeon James Barry called The Cape Doctor was announced. For those who may not be as familiar with Dr. Barry, he was a surgeon for the British Army who was born a woman but lived his life as a man. He had a long and distinguished career, and it was only after his death and subsequent autopsy that his birth sex was revealed.

As there is a serious lack of historical fiction about LGBTQ people, especially trans people, this book should have been welcome news. However, readers were quick to notice that the deal announcement described him as being “a woman all along.”

The Cape Doctor, Publishers Marketplace screenshot

Initially, I had hoped this was just a case of bad/rushed marketing copy. A misstep from the publisher that could be corrected with a bit of education. But unfortunately, The Cape Doctor author E.J. Levy responded to the backlash by not only confirming that the copy language was intentional, but also by doubling down on her resolve to erase Barry’s identity.

It is clear this is a deliberate misgendering of James Barry — one we can assume goes directly against his wishes as he chose to live his life as a man, referred to himself as a gentleman, and even asked to be buried in his clothes so that he would always be remembered as a man.

An accurate and respectful book on the life of Dr. James Barry would be a welcome and important contribution to historical fiction. The Cape Doctor is not that book.

Plagiarism and Ghostwriters in Romance

On Monday, romance author Courtney Milan accused Christiane Serruya of copying whole passages of her novel, The Duchess War, into Serruya’s Royal Love. And the evidence is quite clear when you start to look at it. For example:

The Duchess War:

“Robert nearly sprang to his feet, his temper rising at that. But shouting had never got him anywhere. Slowly, he exhaled his anger, letting it flow from him until the serenity of ice returned.”

Royal Love:

“Angus nearly sprang to his feet, his temper rising at that. But shouting had never gotten him anywhere. Slowly, he exhaled his anger, letting it flow from him until the serenity of ice returned.”

Milan lists even more examples in her blog post here and demands that Serruya take down Royal Love immediately. And it wasn’t just Milan’s work that was copied. Other romance authors, such as Tessa Dare, soon realized their work had been copied as well.

It didn’t take long for Serruya to respond, and when she did she had an unexpected defense — it was actually the ghostwriter she hired on Fiverr who did the plagiarising:

Screenshot of Cristiane Serruya’s Twitter page, which has been recently deleted.

At the time of this writing, this story was still developing, but many people have begun to further investigate the claims. You can follow the story under the hashtag #CopyPasteCris.

They Both Die at the End to be Adapted by HBO

After so much controversy I wanted to end this week on a high note. Thankfully, HBO and Bad Robot came to the rescue with the news that they would be adapting Adam Silvera’s novel They Both Die at the End. Chris Kelly, a former Saturday Night Live writer and co-creator of Comedy Central’s The Other Two, is also attached as writer and producer.

They Both Die at the End is a story set in the near future. In this version of the future, you receive a phone call 24 hours before you die, and through an app called ‘Last Friend,’ you can find someone to spend your final day on Earth with. Which is exactly how Mateo and Rufus find each other. It’s a heartbreaking and beautiful novel, and I can’t wait to see how it translates to television.

Out This Week

The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried by Shaun David Hutchinson

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray

The Afterward by E.K. Johnston

The Art of Losing by Lizzy Mason

Cover for The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried

Happy Thursday!

Christa Seeley

Christa Seeley

Books Editor. Maple Flavoured Darth Vader Fangirl.