The author of The Da Vinci Code has finally cracked.

Dan Brown testified in London's High Court Monday, denying the claims of two historians that he cribbed his best-selling book's ideas from previously published material.

"I would like to restate that I remain astounded by the claimants' choice to file this plagiarism suit," Brown said in an extensive witness statement. "For them to suggest, as I understand they do, that I have 'hijacked and exploited' their work is simply untrue."

Michael Baigent, 57, and Richard Leigh, 62, are the allegedly wronged authors who filed suit against the blockbuster novelist, claiming the central theme of The Da Vinci Code was lifted from their own 1982 historical epic, The Holy Blood, and the Holy Grail. The writing duo sued both Brown and the British arm of Random House, his book's publisher, for copyright infringement.

The issue at stake is Brown's use of the so-called "bloodline" theory, namely the belief that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and they had children who married into a line of French kings. The theory is the crux of Brown's book, and one which Baigent and Leigh claim derived straight from their work.

Brown, though, claims the theory was prevalent in several books he came across in the course of his research and says the presumption that he lifted content from the historians' book was "completely fanciful."

"Messieurs Baigent and Leigh are only two of a number of authors who have written about the bloodline story, and yet I went out of my way to mention them for being the ones who brought the theory to mainstream attention," said Brown, whose appearances at the trial have been among his few public sightings since his book took the publishing world by storm.

Brown acknowledged that while the historians may have written most prominently about the theory, they were not the only ones to write about it. The 41-year-old author also said that the few facts in the book that come directly from Baigent and Leigh's work have always been noted, and that those accreditations appear in the published copy.

In fact, it could be argued that he more than gave the authors their due.

One of the main characters in the book, Leigh Teabing, is an anagram of "Leigh" and "Baigent," and direct references to the duo's book can be found in the narrative.

"I have been shocked at their reaction. Furthermore, I do not really understand it," he said. "The documents contain numerous sweeping statements which seem to me to be completely fanciful."

Random House, which coincidentally also published The Holy Blood, and the Holy Grail, claims that both books do deal with similar themes, but that the ideas put forth are too general to be protected by copyright. Lawyers for the publishing house also say that, despite the focus on the two works' similarities, there are significant differences between the books and their sources.

Brown also spoke about his research methods while on the witness stand, saying his wife, Blythe, assisted him with all his books, including The Da Vinci Code. He said he adheres to a strict writing regimen, and begins jotting down ideas at 4 a.m., "when there are no distractions."

"I found I liked working at that hour," Brown continued. "By making writing my first order of business every day, I am giving it enormous symbolic importance in my life, which helps keep me motivated." The routine is only briefly interrupted for physical exercise.

Brown also said his love of puzzles derives from his childhood, when he would have to solve clues to find his Christmas presents.

"For me, codes and treasure hunts have always been a passion," he said.

Brown also said that he dreamed up The Da Vinci Code during a trip to Mayan ruins in Mexico.

The much-publicized trial is in its third and possibly final week, and the verdict is of interest to more than just the literary world.

Should the two writers succeed in securing an injunction against the use of their allegedly original material, they could hold up the release of The Da Vinci Code's big-screen adaptation scheduled for May 19, starring Tom Hanks and Ian McKellen.

But Brown does have precedence on his side. Last August, the author won a separate court ruling in the U.S. against author Lewis Perdue, who claimed Brown's bestseller lifted elements from two of his books, Daughter of God and The Da Vinci Legacy.

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