LESLIE CRISS: Fans looking out for beloved Nelle Harper Lee


“Anything is better than lies and deceit.”

Leo Tolstoy

“A snake deserves no pity.”

Yiddish Proverb “When people cheat in any arena, they diminish themselves, they threaten their own self-esteem and their relationships with others by undermining the trust they have in their ability to succeed and in their ability to be true.

Cheryl Hughes

I learned a few weeks ago that someone has had the unmitigated audacity to cheat and to steal from an octogenarian.

That, in itself, is just plain wrong.

But the octogenarian in question is a literary treasure, and beloved by millions for penning what is, in my opinion, the best bit of fiction ever published.

That would be Nelle Harper Lee, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

Here’s the story as I understand it: A snake in the grass from New York City (my apologies to my reptile-loving friends) named Pinkus, former literary agent of Miss Lee, has been accused of stealing her copyright of this amazing novel.

Pinkus, son-in-law of Lee’s longtime agent, is accused of taking advantage of Lee’s vulnerability after she’d suffered a stroke and was in an assisted living facility. Her vision and hearing were also compromised by advancing years when Pinkus supposedly visited Lee in 2007 and got her to sign over, for free, her copyright.

The very private Lee has had a lawsuit filed against Pinkus on her behalf.

According to the lawsuit and NBC News: Pinkus engineered the transfer of Lee’s rights to secure himself “irrevocable” interest in the income derived from her book and to avoid paying legal obligations he owed to his father-in-law’s company for royalties Pinkus allegedly misappropriated.

The complaint against Pinkus also claims Lee’s copyright was returned to her ownership last year, but that he has continued to receive royalties from the novel, which has sold more than 30 million copies since published in 1960.

Shame on him.

As far as I know, no one is commenting. Not Lee’s attorneys and not Pinkus or anyone representing him.

It matters not. I know all I need to know.

And I have two questions: What would Atticus do? And where is that mild-mannered Goliath of goodness when his creator needs him?

We may not have Atticus, but we have my good friend Jonathan Martin who played the fire out of the role of Lawyer Finch in TCT’s recent production.

Jonathan said he planned to write a letter to Pinkus from his own Tupelo law office, and he encouraged other of Lee’s fans to do the same.

Rest assured, these letters will not be pretty pieces of prose praising Pinkus for his propriety.

Quite frankly, I would like to stick a precisely placed Southern foot up his thieving Northern, well, you get the picture. But I suppose I’ll write a letter instead.

“Dear Sir: You should not have messed with Nelle Harper Lee.

“People have not taken kindly to it.

“It was loathsome. Repent and return the money.”

leslie.criss@journalinc.com

Leslie Criss/NEMS Daily Journal