I knew there was something missing from all the On the Road anniversary celebrations earlier this month:
In a rare move by a publishing house, the Penguin Group is suing a prolific biographer for the return of a $200,000 advance on the grounds he didn't deliver a manuscript by the contracted due date. The author, Douglas Brinkley, was commissioned in 1998 to write a biography of the 1950s "Beat" writer Jack Kerouac in time for the 50th anniversary of his breakthrough 1957 novel "On the Road." Because Mr. Brinkley was unable to complete the manuscript in time, the Penguin Group filed suit this week in state Supreme Court in Manhattan to wrest back the $200,000 they had advanced to Mr. Brinkley and the Kerouac estate.
Typically in such situations, publishers simply cut their losses or privately negotiate settlements with authors, according to industry experts.
Mr. Brinkley, a history professor at Rice University in Houston who has had five of his biographies selected as "Notable Books" by the New York Times, said he had been unaware of the lawsuit until he was contacted by The New York Sun, and that he thought it was "just a snafu between three parties."
According to the suit, the original deadline was December 2001, which Mr. Brinkley and Penguin extended to September 2005, and then to June 2006.