Letter to Dan Brown

[Editor's Note: the following unsigned letter came into our hands by accident. We do not sympathize with or take responsibility for its content or the views expressed therein. We are publishing this letter because of the world—wide interest in the opening of the movie The Da Vinci Code, based on Mr. Brown's book of the same name. If the 'Khadijah' story surfaces anywhere else, people will know that it is a hoax, just like the book and movie. The only editing has been the addition of links.]

Dear Mr. Brown:

You probably won't have time to read this right away, what with soaring book sales, TV interviews, and movie premieres,. But when things quiet down, be sure to remember this letter. It contains information that may be to your financial advantage.

I am delighted about your success, which is an inspiration to struggling writers. Most authors would have given up after three dud novels but you persevered a fourth time and hit the jackpot, or should I say holy grail. You really have an eye for obscure crank books, like The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, that can be converted into thrillers. And your deadpan assertion that the Priory of Sion, is a real organization was a stroke of marketing genius. The credulous believed you and those who knew better, or had read The Da Vinci Hoax, protested loudly, thereby generating sales—boosting controversy.

When I finally read your book, I was delighted to find it was a revival of the genre made famous by Mariah Monk and Eugene Sue. Outside of dusty corners in shabby used—book stores (the 'Secrets of the Confessional and other Horrors' sections), I haven't encountered such a book in ages. And The Da Vinci Code is a good read, occasionally exciting and hilarious throughout.
However, I did have a few objections: 

  •  I was distressed that you referred to your villain as 'an albino.' I, and those like me who are pigmentally challenged, resent the use of that noun, which makes us sound like something inhuman. I found your description of 'ghost—pale skin' and 'pink [irises] with dark red pupils' hurtful. Moreover, the stereotype of the Evil Albino is not only bigoted but outdated; I hoped it had died out with Clarence Buddington Kelland.

  •  Your choice of Opus Dei for your Evil Empire seems inappropriate. Traditionally, the source of all Catholic villainy is the Jesuits. That stigma arose because of their advocacy of democracy and their denial of the divine right of kings, which earned them the hatred and calumny of all the monarchs of Europe. But at least the Jesuits have a long—standing reputation for vigor and  courage, which are admirable qualities in a villain. In contrast, as you know if you have read any of their books, Opus Dei is the meekest, namby—pambiest, turn—the—other—cheekiest group in the whole Catholic Church. It's hard to imagine them harboring assassins that would make Dr. Fu Manchu seem like a bumbling amateur—but maybe that just shows how insidiously cunning the OD crowd really is.

  •  Exposing something like the KKK or the Mafia would have taken a certain amount of courage. In contrast, don't you think there's something a bit... well, frankly, cowardly about attacking the Catholic Church and Opus Dei?  After all, what with their ideas about forgiving enemies and loving their persecutors and 'offering it up,' they're sitting ducks. Aside from the occasional albino assassin, you have nothing to fear in the way of reprisals.

    But this is mere quibbling over details. I enjoyed the book (my ribs ached from laughing) and, if Ms. Tautou is as charming as her photos, I'll probably enjoy the movie. So I feel that I owe you something for the Da Vinci Code. By now, you thinking about sequels. I have a perfect one for you, very much in your line of fiction, and I herewith offer it to you gratis. I know that authors generally flee from fans with story ideas but hear me out.

    Your hero is a specialist in ancient documents who wheedles his way into becoming the first unbeliever allowed to examine the cache of ancient fragments of the Koran found in Yemen in 1972. (You can read all about this in the January 1999 issue of The Atlantic.) He becomes the target of a fundamentalist Islamic brotherhood, who keep trying to kill him. He is saved by a beautiful Dubai scholar who is also under attack because of her un—Islamic feminist views.

    Gradually they break the encryption of some of the fragments and discover the secret. The Koran was not the work of Mohammed but really the inspiration of his first wife, Khadijah, who had visions she claimed came from God. Since no one would believe in a female prophet, Mohammed became her 'front' or mouthpiece. After her death, Mohammed was forced to improvise additional suras on his own. Because of his more bellicose viewpoint, his suras had a more warlike tone and preached Jihad and the murder or enslavement of unbelievers. The assassin brotherhood is dedicated to keeping the true origin of the Koran a secret 'for the good of Islam.'

    The hero and heroine search for the ancient shrine of Khadijah, as described in the fragments, but are pursued by the Brotherhood from Yemen to Europe where.... but you can continue this sort of thing better than I can.

    This plot has all the earmarks of another bestseller: danger, intrigue, sex, and the most popular villains around, Islamic terrorists. It also has the feminist slant that helped you so much in selling the Da Vinci Code, i.e. the contrast between the sensitive feminine viewpoint and the bloodthirsty masculine one.

    This plot can't miss. It's utterly preposterous and unsubstantiated, but that hasn't stopped you yet. And it'll make a great movie. It's a pity that Omar Sharif isn't young enough to do Mohammed but Barbra Streisand is still around for Khadijah.

    The only problem is that a few Islamic groups might get a bit techy, But why worry; you've survived the vicious assassins of Opus Dei, haven't you? By comparison, dodging a few hotheads should be easy. And suppose that they do proclaim a fatwa on you? It'll be great for sales; look what it did for Rushide. Also it's a chance for you to show the world that you're not afraid to take aim at a militant organization and prove (perhaps literally) that you've got guts.

    And what will I get from all this? The satisfaction of helping an ambitious author to get what he deserves. Please note that I hereby waive all rights to the above ideas. I give them entirely to you to develop into a fine book. I don't want any consultation fees or royalties or even credit. As a matter of fact, I'd prefer that you not mention my name.  And please don't show anyone this letter. 

  • [Editor's Note: the following unsigned letter came into our hands by accident. We do not sympathize with or take responsibility for its content or the views expressed therein. We are publishing this letter because of the world—wide interest in the opening of the movie The Da Vinci Code, based on Mr. Brown's book of the same name. If the 'Khadijah' story surfaces anywhere else, people will know that it is a hoax, just like the book and movie. The only editing has been the addition of links.]

    Dear Mr. Brown:

    You probably won't have time to read this right away, what with soaring book sales, TV interviews, and movie premieres,. But when things quiet down, be sure to remember this letter. It contains information that may be to your financial advantage.

    I am delighted about your success, which is an inspiration to struggling writers. Most authors would have given up after three dud novels but you persevered a fourth time and hit the jackpot, or should I say holy grail. You really have an eye for obscure crank books, like The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, that can be converted into thrillers. And your deadpan assertion that the Priory of Sion, is a real organization was a stroke of marketing genius. The credulous believed you and those who knew better, or had read The Da Vinci Hoax, protested loudly, thereby generating sales—boosting controversy.

    When I finally read your book, I was delighted to find it was a revival of the genre made famous by Mariah Monk and Eugene Sue. Outside of dusty corners in shabby used—book stores (the 'Secrets of the Confessional and other Horrors' sections), I haven't encountered such a book in ages. And The Da Vinci Code is a good read, occasionally exciting and hilarious throughout.
    However, I did have a few objections: 

  •  I was distressed that you referred to your villain as 'an albino.' I, and those like me who are pigmentally challenged, resent the use of that noun, which makes us sound like something inhuman. I found your description of 'ghost—pale skin' and 'pink [irises] with dark red pupils' hurtful. Moreover, the stereotype of the Evil Albino is not only bigoted but outdated; I hoped it had died out with Clarence Buddington Kelland.

  •  Your choice of Opus Dei for your Evil Empire seems inappropriate. Traditionally, the source of all Catholic villainy is the Jesuits. That stigma arose because of their advocacy of democracy and their denial of the divine right of kings, which earned them the hatred and calumny of all the monarchs of Europe. But at least the Jesuits have a long—standing reputation for vigor and  courage, which are admirable qualities in a villain. In contrast, as you know if you have read any of their books, Opus Dei is the meekest, namby—pambiest, turn—the—other—cheekiest group in the whole Catholic Church. It's hard to imagine them harboring assassins that would make Dr. Fu Manchu seem like a bumbling amateur—but maybe that just shows how insidiously cunning the OD crowd really is.

  •  Exposing something like the KKK or the Mafia would have taken a certain amount of courage. In contrast, don't you think there's something a bit... well, frankly, cowardly about attacking the Catholic Church and Opus Dei?  After all, what with their ideas about forgiving enemies and loving their persecutors and 'offering it up,' they're sitting ducks. Aside from the occasional albino assassin, you have nothing to fear in the way of reprisals.

    But this is mere quibbling over details. I enjoyed the book (my ribs ached from laughing) and, if Ms. Tautou is as charming as her photos, I'll probably enjoy the movie. So I feel that I owe you something for the Da Vinci Code. By now, you thinking about sequels. I have a perfect one for you, very much in your line of fiction, and I herewith offer it to you gratis. I know that authors generally flee from fans with story ideas but hear me out.

    Your hero is a specialist in ancient documents who wheedles his way into becoming the first unbeliever allowed to examine the cache of ancient fragments of the Koran found in Yemen in 1972. (You can read all about this in the January 1999 issue of The Atlantic.) He becomes the target of a fundamentalist Islamic brotherhood, who keep trying to kill him. He is saved by a beautiful Dubai scholar who is also under attack because of her un—Islamic feminist views.

    Gradually they break the encryption of some of the fragments and discover the secret. The Koran was not the work of Mohammed but really the inspiration of his first wife, Khadijah, who had visions she claimed came from God. Since no one would believe in a female prophet, Mohammed became her 'front' or mouthpiece. After her death, Mohammed was forced to improvise additional suras on his own. Because of his more bellicose viewpoint, his suras had a more warlike tone and preached Jihad and the murder or enslavement of unbelievers. The assassin brotherhood is dedicated to keeping the true origin of the Koran a secret 'for the good of Islam.'

    The hero and heroine search for the ancient shrine of Khadijah, as described in the fragments, but are pursued by the Brotherhood from Yemen to Europe where.... but you can continue this sort of thing better than I can.

    This plot has all the earmarks of another bestseller: danger, intrigue, sex, and the most popular villains around, Islamic terrorists. It also has the feminist slant that helped you so much in selling the Da Vinci Code, i.e. the contrast between the sensitive feminine viewpoint and the bloodthirsty masculine one.

    This plot can't miss. It's utterly preposterous and unsubstantiated, but that hasn't stopped you yet. And it'll make a great movie. It's a pity that Omar Sharif isn't young enough to do Mohammed but Barbra Streisand is still around for Khadijah.

    The only problem is that a few Islamic groups might get a bit techy, But why worry; you've survived the vicious assassins of Opus Dei, haven't you? By comparison, dodging a few hotheads should be easy. And suppose that they do proclaim a fatwa on you? It'll be great for sales; look what it did for Rushide. Also it's a chance for you to show the world that you're not afraid to take aim at a militant organization and prove (perhaps literally) that you've got guts.

    And what will I get from all this? The satisfaction of helping an ambitious author to get what he deserves. Please note that I hereby waive all rights to the above ideas. I give them entirely to you to develop into a fine book. I don't want any consultation fees or royalties or even credit. As a matter of fact, I'd prefer that you not mention my name.  And please don't show anyone this letter.