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Kerouac biographer says there's a vendetta

Gerald Nicosia says publisher is deleting references to his works about the author.

June 06, 2007|Josh Getlin | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — A biographer of Jack Kerouac blasted Viking Penguin on Tuesday for allegedly removing his name and all references to his work from its books about the late author as part of a vendetta against him by the executor of Kerouac's estate.

In a Manhattan news conference, Gerald Nicosia, author of "Memory Babe," said Viking Penguin had bowed to executor John Sampas' wishes and removed Nicosia's name from books it is publishing on Kerouac and the Beat Generation.

Nicosia got involved in a nasty estate fight among Kerouac's heirs when he took sides against Sampas and other Sampas family members in a 1994 lawsuit filed by the author's late daughter, Jan. The estate is controlled by the relatives of Kerouac's widow, Stella Sampas, Kerouac's third wife and the executor's sister, who died in 1990. In her lawsuit, Jan Kerouac was contesting the will of her grandmother, Gabrielle Kerouac, saying it had been forged.

Although Jan Kerouac died in 1996, there is still a chance that the case may be tried, with Jack Kerouac's nephew, Paul Blake Jr., as a substitute plaintiff, Nicosia said.

As for his own grievance, Nicosia added: "When scholarship and publishing is tampered with by a major publishing house, it's censorship," he said in an interview before his New York news conference. "I haven't heard of anything like this happening before.... You don't hear about such things in the book world."

Paul Slovak, a spokesman for Viking Penguin, dismissed Nicosia's complaint, saying, "It's simply not true." He noted that the house -- which is the principal publisher of Kerouac estate materials -- is gearing up for the 50th anniversary of Kerouac's masterpiece, "On the Road," in September, and will be publishing other books commemorating the author. "We've not been removing [Nicosia's] name, we never had any intention of blacklisting him, [but] our authors are under no obligation to name him in their new books or use his book as a reference," Slovak said.

josh.getlin@latimes.com

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