By Susan Green
It's not unusual for people to tell Stan Planton what they think about "The Da Vinci Code."
Planton, head librarian at Ohio University Chillicothe Campus, didn't write the best-selling novel, but he's the man author Dan Brown turns to when he needs information. And Brown thanks the librarian for being his, "number one source of information on countless topics" in the acknowledgments of his books.
In case you haven't read it, the book is fictional account of a quest for the Holy Grail. The controversial, centuries old Mary/Jesus relationship figures prominently into the story, too.
Brown's novels are research intensive and controversial. He met Planton through mutual friend Jim Barrington, while working on his first book, "Digital Fortress." Brown and Barrington know each other through MENSA. Planton and Barrington are long-time friends, for more than 20 years they've worked together on economic development projects near Chillicothe, Ohio. A casual conversation during a 1998 MENSA meeting put Brown in touch with Planton. And four novels later they're still working together.
Their relationship began with the two discussing Enigma, a machine used by the German Army in World War II to create military codes. Brown is interested in codes, code breaking, anagrams and secrets. Not secret organizations, but the secrets of organizations. Codes, anagrams and secrets permeate all of his novels.
Planton was more involved with Brown's third novel, "Angels & Demons," a fast-paced thriller involving the Illuminati, an ancient brotherhood of scientists, and the Catholic Church.
"Dan typically sends me a list of key words and phrases with no clue about how they are tied together. For example, while writing 'Angels & Demons,' the list included: The number of murdered Popes, causes of death and examples of proof," Planton explains. "He also asked whether it was possible to make a branding iron white hot, without it losing its shape." The answer is no, but Brown used it in the book anyway. Planton laughs when saying Brown doesn't always take his advice
Planton is quick to admit he's not an expert in anything, other than research. "My only expertise is that I can access vast amounts of data in seconds," he says.
Although they mostly communicate by e-mail, Brown and Planton have met face-to-face. He and his wife, Margaret, visited Brown at his home in New England, where they went blueberry picking and, of course, talked about an upcoming book.
"It's been fun," Planton says. "Dan still seeks my advice, and through the years we've come to think along the same lines."
Will Planton ever become a character in one of Brown's novels? Maybe, but you won't recognize him. His name will be an anagram.
Susan Green is a writer with University Communications and Marketing.