Byline: By STEPHEN HOWARD
AMERICAN Dan Brown, one of the highest paid authors in history, faced a High Court claim yesterday that the central theme of his blockbuster novel, The Da Vinci Code, was copied from an earlier work.
Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh are suing their own publishers, Random House, claiming the internationally successful novel lifts from their 1982 book, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (HBHG), itself a best seller.
Jonathan Rayner James QC, representing the Holy Blood authors, told Mr Justice Peter Smith that the Da Vinci Code is an infringement of his clients' copyright.
Mr Rayner James said: "The claimants are not alone in this. Many people all over the world have commented to the same effect since The Da Vinci Code was first published."
He said Dan Brown claims that the Holy Blood was "incidental" to the creation of his book and was only consulted at the very end of its making.
"This is an extraordinary claim that would surprise anyone who has read The Da Vinci Code after reading the HBHG."
Mr Rayner James said the HBHG was "historical conjecture" setting out the authors' hypothesis.
"The authors' historical conjecture has spawned many other books that developed aspects of this conjecture in a variety of directions.
"But none has lifted the central theme of the book."
He said the authors had invested a "massive amount of their lives" researching the HBHG between 1976 and 1981.
"There can be no dispute that Brown was aware of the importance of the HBHG to the central theme when he wrote DVC."
But Dan Brown had said the HBHG was not "crucial or important" to the creation of the central theme of his novel and when he wrote his synopsis, he had not even read it.
The American author said he had not even heard of HBHG until he saw it mentioned in some of his research books.
"This cannot be correct," said Mr Rayner James.
The non-fiction work deals with theories that Jesus and Mary Magdalene married, had a child, and the blood line continues to this day - with the Catholic Church trying to suppress the discovery. …