How to write: Why is The Da Vinci Code so popular?

Posted by Matthew Stibbe
Picture of Matthew Stibbe
on 31 March 2006
How we work Miscellaneous Writing

How to write: The Da Vninci CodeI just came across WebWord, an interesting site with some parallel interests to mine. I would love to know more about who's behind it but I can't find any links to a bio on the site. One of their posts was about the curious popularity of The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. It lists some plausible reasons, e.g. “Readers feel smart because often they’re figuring out the clues before the book’s characters do.”

There's a temptation to condemn a popular book because it is badly written, by which I suppose I mean not written in the best traditions of English literature. I slag it off for this reason even though I enjoyed the book very much and finished it in a couple of sittings.

In a way The Da Vinci Code, like many airport blockbusters before it, is actually very well-written, at least in the sense that it is very fit for purpose. It makes you WANT to read it. It is literally a page turner.

I can't think of many examples of people trying to write non-fiction in a thriller format but it would be an interesting idea. In fact I can think of one example: Richard Neustadt's Report to JFK: The Skybolt Crisis in PerspectiveHow to write: Why is The Da Vinci Code so popular?. JFK was a huge fan of Fleming's James Bond stories and Neustadt wanted to catch and keep his attention so he wrote this politico-military history in the same sort of style.

Of course the widely-publicised plagiarism court case can't hurt. I was in a bookshop at Heathrow last week and saw both books - the Da Vinci Code and Holy Blood, Holy Grail - prominently displayed side by side.

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