Writers often blame speed for modern plagiarism. It’s the fast pace of the news cycle that prompts news sites to curate their reporting from various sources. Sometimes, writers then fail to properly attribute the original author. And with that, a wrongly-formatted or unsourced copy-and-paste job turns into full-fledged stealing. It happens, and while news organizations rightfully take allegations of plagiarism seriously, it’s understandable that it could occur accidentally.
Still, it’s hard to imagine that B. Mitchell Cator can lean on that excuse for All The Good That Remains. So far, there have been twelve documented instances of Cator borrowing passages from other writers for his debut novel, including from Texas Monthly‘s Skip Hollandsworth. Cator’s book has only been out for a week.
Here’s an excerpt from chapter fifteen of All The Good That Remains (emphasis added):
As Ernie fretted about the paint, he also reminded himself that he didn’t care for football. In fact, he didn’t like how the town seemed to be obsessed by the high school sport. He despised the hoopla that began two hours before game time. A dozen or so fans of the Logan High Warriors, already at the football stadium, would begin pounding on drums. The sound of the drumming carried all the way across town and echoed off the grain silos.
As more people arrived, many of them would be wearing clothes with Logan’s colors, feathers dangling from their hair. Some would carry homemade spears made of plastic pipe, called Spirit Spears, and foist them into the air matching the rhythm of the drums. Others carried toy axes, called Battle axes, adorned at home with feathers and twine.
By kickoff, the stadium would be so packed that many were left standing along the field’s edges as no seats were left. The thirty-member marching band would launch into the school fight song while six varsity cheerleaders jumped, kicked, and tried to turn backflips. When the Warriors ran onto the field, the crowd took to their feet, if they were not already standing, and roared. They hooped and hollered such vigor, as if they were out-cheering college games.
And here is the first paragraphs of Hollandsworth’s “The Killing Field,” which we published in August 2008 (again, emphasis added):
A dozen or so fans of the Iraan High Braves, already at the football stadium, pound on tom-toms: one loud beat followed by three lighter ones, over and over and over. The sound of the drumming carries all the way across town and echoes off the nearby hills and mesas, and soon more fans arrive, many of them, adults and students alike, wearing war paint on their faces. Some carry homemade spears, made of PVC pipes with rubber tips, which they bang on the metal bleachers, keeping time with the tom-toms. Others shout a war chant while they hold up their arms and make tomahawk-chop gestures.
By kickoff, close to 800 of Iraan’s 1,200 citizens are packed into the stadium. The ninety-member Big Red marching band launches into the school fight song, and the six varsity cheerleaders turn backflips. When the Braves run onto the field, the roar from the crowd is almost deafening—“like something you’d expect at a college game,” says Clara Greer, the editor and publisher of the weekly Iraan News.
Hills and mesas have become grain silos, tom-toms have been reduced to simply drums, and the homemade spears have been stripped of detail. Still, the resemblance to Cator’s work of fiction is striking.
Hollandsworth isn’t the only Texas writer that Cator lifted for the novel. El Paso novelist Sergio Troncoso’s short story “Angie Luna” is heavily appropriated just two chapters after Hollandsworth’s appearance, at times word for word.
If you’re still giving Cator the benefit of the doubt and thinking this could all be some unfortunate coincidence, this is far from the first time that he has been accused of lifting work from other writers. Internet sleuthing, seemingly led by author Karen Jones, began on May 31, the day that Cator’s novel released. Jones uncovered that Cator had plagiarized dozens of works on his site. During this dig, Jones and others noticed that another Texas writer, Dallas-based Daryl Scroggins, had an essay on gardening refashioned by Cator for the Santa Fe Literary Review that is nearly identically to the original. Soon, people began to dive into Cator’s first published work, Probably So, a collection of short stories, and found that at least nine of the stories had either ostensibly or outright borrowed material. After complaints about Probably So rolled in, Amazon yanked it from its marketplace.
This revelation rightly raised suspicion about his new novel, which led Ira Lightman to scour All The Good That Remains for evidence of plagiarism. It was Lightman who noted similarities between Hollandsworth and Troncoso’s passages, along with ten others. Although the book is still available on Amazon (for now), the novel’s write-up in the acclaimed Kirkus Review has been yanked, and Cator has all but scrubbed any evidence of his personal writing from the Internet and social media. Talk about a hell of a book release party.