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'Cay' Author Wins Ruling on Sequel : Books: A judge says Theodore Taylor of Laguna doesn't have to share with his ex-wife the proceeds of the later novel, written years after the divorce.

November 24, 1994|DENNIS McLELLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Superior Court judge has ruled that "Timothy of the Cay," the 1993 sequel to Laguna Beach author Theodore Taylor's acclaimed young adult novel "The Cay," belongs solely to the author.

That's good news to Taylor, whose ex-wife filed an action in Superior Court last February seeking an order that she should share half of all proceeds from "Timothy of the Cay," which was written and published 16 years after their divorce.

Taylor wrote his 1969 book "The Cay" while he and Gweneth Goodwin Taylor were still married. When they were divorced in 1977, they agreed to share proceeds and royalties from any works Taylor completed before the divorce, including "The Cay."

Because the sequel uses a character from "The Cay," Gweneth Taylor's attorney, Rodney C. Miles of Irvine, said earlier this year that "Timothy of the Cay" is considered a "derivative product" under federal copyright laws. Since Gweneth Taylor was given half-ownership rights to "The Cay" in the divorce, he said, she was entitled to half of the proceeds of the sequel.

Taylor's lawyer, Alan I. White of Costa Mesa, contended that copyright laws do not apply to this case and that Gweneth Taylor was entitled to nothing from the sequel because it was written after the marriage had ended and is her ex-husband's separate property.

Superior Court Judge Robert B. Hutson ruled last Thursday that Gweneth Taylor is not entitled to share any profits from "Timothy of the Cay" and confirmed that the book is indeed Theodore Taylor's separate property.

"I'm breathing a sigh of relief," says Taylor, 73. But it goes beyond just his case, he says. "It sets a precedent, and a lot of musicians, painters and writers who happened to have the misfortune to be in my kind of position on that can breathe a little easier now."

Robert L. Malin, Gweneth Taylor's current attorney, did not return phone calls.

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"The Cay" is about a young white boy who is forced to confront his racial prejudices when he is shipwrecked with an old West Indian black seaman during World War II. The novel, which is required reading in schools throughout the United States, won 11 literary awards and was made into a 1973 TV movie starring James Earl Jones as Timothy.

"The Cay" has been criticized by some groups and individuals for being offensive to blacks and for reinforcing stereotypes. Taylor, however, has said he wrote the book, which is dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr., in hopes of achieving a subtle plea for better race relations and more understanding.

"Timothy of the Cay," published in hardback last fall by Harcourt Brace, is in its second printing after selling out the 40,000-copy first printing. The paperback edition was published by Avon two months ago and, according to Taylor, 250,000 copies are in print.

Taylor, just back from Orlando, Fla., where he spoke at the National Conference of Teachers of English, has a revised hardback edition of his 1984 young adult Western, "Walking Up a Rainbow" (Harcourt Brace) due in bookstores the first week of December.

It's about a 14-year-old girl from Council Bluffs, Iowa, who drives a flock of 3,000 sheep across the country to feed the gold miners in the Sacramento Valley.

Upcoming from Taylor next year: "The Bomb," a young-adult novel about "the world's first nuclear nomads, the people of Bikini Island" and "Naughty Naughty Knife Work," a sequel to his 1989 adult thriller "Monocolo," which features West Indian detective Epp Watts, who is an ex-wide receiver for the Oakland Raiders.

"It's a fun book," says Taylor."

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