LONDON, Mar 13 (Reuters) Author Dan Brown today said he was ''astounded'' at allegations by two historians that he copied their work wholesale when he wrote the best-selling religious thriller ''The Da Vinci Code.'' In a statement released to reporters after he took the witness stand for the first time, the 41-year-old also pointed out that he credited the work of Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh in the body of his novel.
''I would like to restate that I remain astounded by the claimants' choice to file this plagiarism suit,'' he said.
''For them to suggest, as I understand they do, that I have hijacked and exploited their work is simply untrue.'' The two historians, who have already given evidence, are suing Brown's British publisher Random House, which also publishes their own 1982 historical work ''The Holy Blood, and the Holy Grail''.
Both books deal with the theme of Jesus marrying and having a child by Mary Magdalene and their bloodline being protected by the mysterious Priory of Sion, a theory that has been greeted with outrage by some Catholic leaders.
But Random House's lawyers say the ideas are too general to protect by copyright, there are many differences between the two books and that Brown drew on a number of sources.
The US author was asked during cross-examination about his working practices and those of his wife Blythe, who helped research books including The Da Vinci Code. She emerges as a key source both of his research and his ideas.
''If I did actually read all she asked me to read, I probably would never have written the book,'' he said.
Wearing a yellow tie, blue shirt and blue jacket, and watched by the world's media in a packed courtroom, the millionaire author appeared relaxed as the case entered its third, and possibly final week.
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