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Last Updated: Friday, 7 April 2006, 13:19 GMT 14:19 UK
Decoding the Da Vinci Code author
Dan Brown
Dan Brown taught English in schools before becoming a writer

Publisher Random House has won the case brought against it by two authors who claimed Dan Brown plagiarised their book for his novel The Da Vinci Code, which has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide

According to his personal website, 41-year-old Dan Brown gets up and starts writing each day at four in the morning. He writes with an antique hour glass on his desk and at the end of each 60 minute period he does sit-ups, stretches and push-ups.

He also confesses to wearing gravity boots, saying: "Hanging upside down seems to help me solve plot challenges by shifting my entire perspective."

He does not explain whether being upside down helped him develop his book The Da Vinci Code, but a rush of blood to the head seems to have transformed Brown from run-of-the-mill thriller writer to global phenomenon.

The Da Vinci Code is a classic whodunnit, which centres on a global conspiracy surrounding the Holy Grail mythology and places heavy emphasis on symbols and cryptography.

Gripping

Protagonist Robert Langdon, a Harvard professor likened to a contemporary Indiana Jones, also appeared in Brown's second book Angels and Demons.

Da Vinci code
The book has featured on bestseller lists worldwide
The book mixes art history with mythology, semiotics with medieval history - and though it does not sound like a potent mix, it has proved gripping to millions of readers around the world.

British reviewer Mark Lawson described it as "irritatingly gripping tosh", while other reviewers praised its mix of conspiracy theories and a fast-paced narrative.

Until 1996, Brown was an English teacher at an exclusive US school. He gave up his job to write full-time when he read a Sydney Sheldon novel on holiday and felt he could do better.

His first book Digital Fortress was a colour-by-numbers affair and sold moderately well.

Secret societies

His subsequent books Angels and Demons and Deception Point continued to sell adequately, but few could have predicted the hysteria that would surround The Da Vinci Code.

Like all his books, it centres on secret societies, global conspiracies, codes and symbols.

Da Vinci Code Decoded
Brown's novel has spawned dozens of spin-off books
The book went to the top of the New York Times book list in its first week on release, and its success helped push sales of Brown's earlier books.

The Da Vinci Code has been translated into 42 languages and has spawned its own cottage industry of publications, including guides on to how to read the book, rebuttals and counter claims.

Brown himself admits that the success of the book has taken him by surprise.

He told his website: "I never imagined so many people would be enjoying it this much. I wrote this book essentially as a group of fictional characters exploring ideas that I found personally intriguing."

He says the idea for the book stems from studying art history at the University of Seville in Spain, where he learnt about "the mysteries of Da Vinci's paintings".

'Paradoxical philosophies'

The son of a mathematics professor and of a professional musician, his personal website says he grew up "surrounded by the paradoxical philosophies of science and religion".

Tom Hanks and Ron Howard
Tom Hanks and Ron Howard worked together on Apollo 13

He lives in Exeter, New Hampshire, with his wife Blythe who helps him with his research.

The book is being released as a film, starring Tom Hanks and Amelie actress Audrey Tautou.

Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind director Ron Howard is directing the film, due out in May.

He is currently working on a follow-up to The Da Vinci Code, again featuring the intrepid Robert Langdon.

Perhaps the secret of Brown's success can be explained by the writer himself.

"Secrets interest us all, I think," he said.


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