Attention-shy writer Dan Brown completed three days of tough courtroom scrutiny on Wednesday, acknowledging that he reworked other writers' material but rejecting claims he copied two authors' work for his mega-selling thriller The Da Vinci Code.
Appearing as a witness for publisher Random House, Brown appeared increasingly tired during lengthy cross-examination that dwelled on the details of his research process and minutiae such as whether the word "savior" should be spelled with a "u."
Writers Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh are suing Random House, Brown's publisher, for copyright infringement at London's High Court, claiming The Da Vinci Code "appropriated the architecture" of their 1982 nonfiction work. Both books explore theories -- dismissed by theologians -- that Jesus married Mary Magdalene, the couple had a child and the bloodline survives.
At one point, Rayner James asked Brown about the description in both books of Jesus as a "mortal prophet."
"Mortal prophet is two words," said Brown. "The entire religion of Islam views Jesus as a mortal prophet. It's hardly unique to The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail."
"We're not saying you can't use those words," Rayner James acknowledged.
"Can they be in the film?" quipped the judge, Peter Smith.
If Baigent and Leigh succeed in securing an injunction to bar the use of their material, they could hold up the scheduled May 19 film release of The Da Vinci Code, starring Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou.
Brown has acknowledged that he and his wife Blythe Brown read The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail while researching The Da Vinci Code, but said they also used 38 other books and hundreds of documents, and that the British authors' book was not crucial to their work.
Brown testified on Tuesday that he was certain he and his wife, who conducts much of his research, had read Baigent and Leigh's book only after he had submitted his synopsis for the novel that would become The Da Vinci Code to his agent in January 2001.
Asked about passages from The Da Vinci Code that were similar to those in The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, Brown acknowledged "reworking of the passage -- that's how you incorporate research into a novel."
But he denied copying. Asked about a description of the Roman emperor Constantine on his deathbed that appears, differently worded, in both books, Brown said: "I'm not crazy about the word `copied.'"
"Copying implies it is identical," he added. "It's not identical."
The Da Vinci Code has sold more than 40 million copies since its release three years ago, and has turned Brown from a hardworking, modestly successful novelist into a literary superstar who tries to avoid the public spotlight.
Brown, who has traveled from his New Hampshire home to give evidence in the case, often appeared bemused by Rayner James' questioning. He buried his head in a hand when discussion turned to whether he had used a document that spelled the word "savior" with a telltale British "u" -- a sign, Rayner James, said, that it came from Baigent and Leigh's book.
The attorney reminded him at one point: "You are not the defendant in the proceedings."
"Now you tell me," joked Brown.
Earlier, Patrick Janson-Smith, who was involved with both books as former publisher of Transworld, a division of Random House, took the stand briefly to support his former employer.