Would Someone Take Advantage of America’s Most Beloved Author?

In What's the Buzz by Dennis Abrams

By Dennis Abrams

Harper Lee

Harper Lee

Harper Lee, the author of arguably the most loved of all American novels, To Kill A Mockingbird, is 87 years old, with poor hearing andeyesight. She is also now suing a literary agent who she alleges tricked her into handing him the copyright to her book.

Lee says that when her long-time agent Eugene Winick became ill in 2002, his son-in-law, Samuel Pinkus, switched several of his clients over to his own company, and is alleged to have transferred the right to secure himself “irrevocable” interest in the book’s earnings.

Slate posted that, in a lawsuit filed in Manhattan Friday, the 87-year-old is seeking to reclaim full ownership of the copyright to the 1960 novel and take away any remaining commissions owed to the agent, reports Reuters. The lawsuit claims Samuel Pinkus, the son-in-law of Lee’s long-time agent Eugene Winick, “engaged in a scheme to dupe” Lee in 2007, when she was living in an assisted-living facility after suffering a stroke.

“Pinkus knew that Harper Lee was an elderly woman with physical infirmities that made it difficult for her to read and see,” Gloria Phares, Lee’s lawyer, said in the complaint. Lee apparently had no knowledge that she had signed over her copyright. Although the copyright had been reassigned to Lee after separate legal action last year, “he was still receiving royalties from the novel as of this year, according to the complaint,” reports Bloomberg.

To Kill A Mockingbird, the winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1961, is Ms. Lee’s only published book. She lives in Monroeville, Alabama, is rarely seen in public, and turns down most requests for interviews.

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.