Michael Baigent, a writer who gained wide attention when he filed an ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit contending that the novelist Dan Brown had stolen his ideas and used them in the best-selling thriller “The Da Vinci Code,” died on Monday in Brighton, England. He was 65.
Matt Dunham/Associated Press
Michael Baigent in 2006. He contended that ideas were stolen from his book “The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.”
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The cause was a brain hemorrhage, his agent, Ann Evans, said.
Mr. Baigent had a best-seller of his own, in 1982, the speculative history “The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail” (released in the United States as “Holy Blood, Holy Grail”), which he wrote with Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln.
The book hypothesized that Jesus had married Mary Magdalene and that a secretive group called the Priory of Sion protected their descendants — essential plot elements in “The Da Vinci Code,” which was published in 2003 and adapted for a film in 2006. “The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail” was often characterized as nonfiction, though it appeared on the fiction best-seller list in The New York Times.
Mr. Baigent and Mr. Leigh sued Mr. Brown’s publisher, Random House U.K., for copyright infringement. (Mr. Lincoln did not take part in the suit.)
In 2006, High Court Justice Peter Smith ruled that though Mr. Brown had relied on the work of Mr. Baigent and Mr. Leigh, the similarities between their books did not violate copyright. Mr. Baigent and Mr. Leigh were ordered to pay millions of dollars in legal fees. Mr. Leigh died in 2007.
During the trial Mr. Brown acknowledged that he had read “The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail” but said he had come to it late in the process of writing “The Da Vinci Code.” (He said he named one character, Sir Leigh Teabing, in homage to Mr. Leigh and Mr. Baigent, “Teabing” being an anagram of “Baigent.”)
Michael Feran Baigent (rhymes with “agent”) was born in March 1948 in Christchurch, New Zealand, and graduated from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand in 1972. He was a commercial photographer before he published “The Holy Blood,” his first book. He went on to write others about historical and religious conspiracies, some with Mr. Leigh and Mr. Lincoln. His most recent was “Racing Toward Armageddon” (2009).
Mr. Baigent lived in West Sussex, England. His survivors include his wife, Jane; two daughters, Isabelle and Tansy Baigent; a stepson, David; and a stepdaughter, Emma.