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Kerouac Biographer Lambasts Viking For “Vendetta”

The LA Times’ Josh Getlin reports that Gerald Nicosia, biographer of Jack Kerouac, blasted Viking Penguin on Tuesday at a press conference in Manhattan 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. Nicosia added that Viking had bowed to executor John Sampas‘ wishes and removed Nicosia’s name from books it is publishing on Kerouac and the Beat Generation. “When scholarship and publishing is tampered with by a major publishing house, it’s censorship,” he said in an interview with Getlin 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.”

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.

Viking publisher and spokesman Paul Slovak denied any vendetta was in place. “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. And then Ron proved Nicosia wrong with a simple citation from an book Viking will publish this fall that calls Nicosia’s Memory Babe the “most detailed and best documented” of the Kerouac biographies used by John Leland during his research.

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