From the November 30 issue of New York Press:
Margaret Butler is a reading adviser at the Tuscaloosa Public Library. One day in early October, she was examining a short-story collection titled The Bear Bryant Funeral Train by a writer named Brad Vice. This was the winning volume in the University of Georgia Press' annual Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, a prestigious series that the library orders each year, and six copies had just arrived. Butler opened the book to the first page and was astounded by the opening paragraph:
"And that's how it began. Three distant notes, high blasts on a bugle, then a drop of a minor third on a long wailing note."
As Butler later told the Tuscaloosa News, "On the first page, I said to myself, 'I've read this before.'" She reached into a bookshelf and retrieved Stars Fell on Alabama, a book published by Carl Carmer in 1934, reprinted by the University of Alabama Press in 2000, and still protected by copyright. She quickly found the story that began:
"We heard them coming long before we saw them — three distant high blasts of a bugle, then a drop of a minor third on a long wailing note."
The aptly named Mr. Vice is an English professor at Mississippi State University. What did he have to say for himself?
Vice reacted to all of this by making a number of confused and contradictory public statements. He told the Tuscaloosa News, "All I can say is I'm talking to the Press right now about their concerns. I don't feel at liberty to talk about it. People over my head are dealing with it." The University of Georgia Press reported that he had admitted to them that his story "borrows heavily" from Carmer's book and that he had made "a terrible mistake." He at first told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal that his "omissions" were due to his "ignorance concerning the principles of fair use." Although he later told the same paper that he was denying any "allegations of misconduct," he admitted to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, "I only wish that I could make amends." He told the Chronicle of Higher Education, "I made a terrible error in judgment.… I was foolish and naïve.… I intended my story to be homage to Carmer." He told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, "I am sorry I was ignorant of the principles of fair use at the time and honestly I'm still very confused about it."
Takes your breath away, doesn't it? How on earth can an English professor be so "confused" about plagiarism?
Although The University of Georgia Press has recalled and pulped all the copies of Vice's book it could get its hands on, as of this morning there are five used copies available at Amazon.com. Their asking prices for this now-rare volume range from $450 to $800.
But let me save you folks some money: If you really want to read the story, you can buy it here for a mere $13.57. In a book that has the original author's name on the cover.