W. Ward Gasque

Harmless Thriller or Dangerous Hoax?
(Page 1 of 7)

Dan Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code, has been the best-selling hardback novel in recent years. It has been at or near the top of nearly all bestseller lists in North America since its appearance just over a year and half ago, and now it has been translated into more than 42 languages. To date, more than 17 million copies of The DaVinci Code (DVC) have been sold and the numbers are rising daily.

The French translation, published six months ago, has already sold more than 400,000 copies, putting it at the top of all sales lists in France. As I write, DVC is also number one in Germany, Turkey, Singapore, and the UK (to mention only four countries). It has been banned in Lebanon (in deference to the Christian population), and a major Catholic organization has asked the Indian government to ban it there (a bad move, in my opinion).

Tourists with copies of DVC in their hands are flooding the Louvre, Eglise Saint-Suplice, the environs of Paris, London’s Temple Church and Westminster Abbey, and Edinburgh’s Rosslyn Chapel looking for links with the narrative. A California real estate agent who is a true believer in Dan Brown’s claim to present “the truth about the most dramatic cover-up in history” has purchased and refurbished the Château de Villette outside Paris (home of Sir Leigh Teabing, Brown’s fictional British Royal Historian). That agent also offers a weeklong DVC group tour with lodging on her estate for $55,000, breakfast included. For those on a tight budget, there is a two and a half hour tour of the Louvre and Saint-Suplice with an art historian for $95/person.

Even if you haven’t read the book, you’ve probably heard by now the sub-plot of DVC: the Catholic Church has been keeping the secret about Jesus and Mary Magdalene and their baby, Sarah. The Knights of King Arthur’s Round Table were not looking for a goblet in their quest for the Holy Grail, but rather for the bloodline of Jesus. If you are interested in learning more, you can join one of the seminars and tours of southern France focused on the cult of Mary Magdalene and Europe’s mysterious Black Madonna (not the mother of Jesus as you may have mistakenly thought).

Dan Brown’s fourth book has been a huge financial success; but, as the saying goes, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!” A Columbia Pictures film produced and directed by Oscar-winning Ron Howard is set to come out in 2005, alongside a sequel from Brown’s pen (this time focusing on the Masons). Who knows? You may have another blockbuster opportunity to share the authentic gospel, as you did last year following release of The Passion.

What is it that has made DVC such a publishing success? Brown’s first three books (Digital Fortress, Deception Point, and Angels & Demons) sold about 10,000 copies each, enough to make an impact on his income tax bill but hardly enough to retire on (he’s doing better now). Angels & Demons , like DVC, made claim: “All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.”

A great work of literature DVC is not. No chance of winning any major literary prize here. It has 105 chapters, averaging four pages each. To say that the action is fast moving is an understatement: a merry chase around Paris and its suburbs and from thence to London and Edinburgh and back to Paris again takes just over 24 hours. The narrative reads more like a movie script than a novel. Not very plausible, but hey, it’s fiction.

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