To Kill a(n)… Agent?: Harper Lee Sues to Regain Copyright of Her Famous Novel


One has to wonder just what sort of a creep you’re dealing with when the “alleged” creep decides to try to bilk money out of one of America’s most beloved, aging novelists.

Harper Lee, whose 1961 novel To Kill a Mockingbird was an immediate popular and critical success, remains a best-seller, and is on many a high school curriculum, has been in declining health for a number of years. In 2007, she moved to an assisted living center; not long ago, Lee suffered a stroke. At age 87, she is also mostly blind and deaf.

So there is good reason to question her ability to truly know that she had recently signed over the rights to TKAM to her agent, Samuel Pinkus. Pinkus is the son-in-law of her longtime former agent, Eugene Winick. From 1960 to 2003, Winick represented Lee at his agency, MacIntosh and Otis. Winnick stepped aside and gave Lee’s account to Pinkus and his agency when Winick himself became ill.

The lawsuit filed on Lee’s behalf contends that “Pinkus knew that Harper Lee was an elderly woman with physical infirmities that made it difficult for her to read and see. Harper Lee had no idea she had assigned her copyright to Pinkus’s company.”

MacIntosh and Otis have already tangled with Pinkus, winning a judgement against Pinkus’s company for diverting commissions on numerous accounts.  Harper Lee, too, has had some success in her suits against the agent, removing him as her representative and getting royalties to be paid to her once again. Despite these wins, royalties continue to be diverted to Pinkus.

One hopes for a special place in hell.