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What It's Like to Pick Up a Book at Vroman's and Suspect Your Work Has Been Plagiarized

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It began one day in June when Emily Green was — like any water politics reporter worth her salt — wandering through Vroman's in Pasadena looking for books about the history of the Los Angeles County Flood Control Division.

She stumbled across "The Ripple Effect" by Alex Prud'homme (who just happens to be the nephew of Julia Child), but as she perused the book, she got a "queasy" feeling.

She remembered the time Participant Media (of "An Inconvenient Truth" fame) called her and told her about a book they were adapting into a film. She only remembers the author's name sounded French. The company wanted the contacts she used for a five-part series she'd written for "The Las Vegas Sun." Her series detailed what she calls a "Mulholland-worthy water grab that's been in the works over in Nevada for more than two decades."

She handed some of her contacts over, but she had never heard from the company again and hadn't thought about them until she was back in the aisles of Vroman's reading passages that sounded suspiciously similar to her work for "The Las Vegas Sun."

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She writes about her experience for The Los Angeles Review of Books:

So, I find myself wondering, what am I going to do about the man who I think plagiarized me? Sue him? I’ve bleated to a few lawyers. Humiliate him in front of his editor? I’ve written her. Shame him? I’m writing this.

My anger has the evanescence of an ephemeral stream. It dries up, then it comes gushing up in a basement two blocks away.

For his part, Prud'homme responds to her accusations saying, "as a former fact-checker, and a writer who attempts to be as scrupulous as possible, I am sensitive to issues of accuracy and attribution." He added: "I give your reporting full credit, both in the text and in the footnotes."

Head over to The Los Angeles Review of Books for a full account of Green's saga, side-by-side comparisons of her works and his and full discussion of why an incident like this could spell trouble for investigative reporters like Green and the public that relies on them.