Earlier this week, it came out that Peter S. Beagle, author of The Last Unicorn and many other works, was suing his long-time business partner Connor Cochran for elder abuse, defamation, and fraud, among other charges. The papers were filed in Alameda, California, and are available online.
Yesterday, Conlan Press released a statement signed by Cochran, as well as Beagle’s children, describing the lawsuit as frivolous. The statement claims Beagle’s medical condition was deteriorating, and he was being taken advantage of and manipulated. The statement also asked that people respect the family’s privacy.
In the meantime, Connor Cochran, president of Conlan Press, has been very active on Reddit Fantasy, defending himself and his history with Beagle, and claiming that others simply don’t have all the facts.
He’s right in that respect. Very few people can claim to have all the facts about this particular case and the allegations in question. In that regard, there’s not much we can do but wait.
So what are the facts we do know?
- Peter S. Beagle is beloved. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone say a bad word about this guy. The Last Unicorn is a classic. The idea of anyone taking advantage of Beagle has some fans and authors in literal tears. This is a man who deserves financial stability and security.
- This isn’t the first time Beagle has had to fight for his due. There was an ongoing conflict with Granada Media over royalties and payments for the Last Unicorn movie. A settlement was reached in 2011, apparently through the work of Connor Cochran.
- This is not the first time Cochran has been sued in the publishing world.
- February 2010: Baker and Taylor sued Cochran for approximately $6300 for breach of contract. Cochran’s response to this lawsuit is here, and claims he was offered other terms. However, there’s no written documentation of those alternate terms, aside from an email that, to my non-lawyer mind, is in no way a written contract.
- August 2011: Sydney Clemens sued Cochran for for the return of $25,000 she invested in Cochran’s company as part of a signed 2009 agreement promising her work would be published within 12 months. Cochran did not publish Clemens’ work within that time frame.
- January 2012: Penguin Group sued Cochran for approximately $3400 plus legal fees for unspecified goods and/or services from 2009 that were never paid for.
- Conlan Press has received money for products that were never delivered, going back at least ten years. (Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13) You can also read about the seven Better Business Bureau complaints filed against Conlan Press.
- Connor Cochran claims to have saved Peter Beagle’s career. “When I met him in 2001 he was a quarter million dollars in debt, his house was in foreclosure and about to be auctioned off, and his annual royalties from everything he had ever written all put together came to less than $10,000. Ten years later, because of the business I did for him, his annual earnings were in the 96th percentile of all US incomes.”
- I can’t say whether or not this claim is true. It might be. However…
- It’s possible for this claim to be true, and for the allegations of fraud and abuse against Cochran to also be true.
- In all likelihood, the situation is more complicated than is publicly known. I’m hesitant to include this as a fact … why don’t we call it a truism that snuck in to hang out with facts. But given that this involves family, long-term business relationships, Hollywood, and a great deal of money, I can pretty much guarantee it’s complicated and ugly.
- This sucks. I’ve only met and spoken with Mr. Beagle once, but he came across as a wonderful human being who’d run into some major business problems over the course of his career. Whatever the truth, whatever the facts about the current lawsuit, Peter Beagle deserves better.
Based on these facts? I worry. I worry about a wonderful and beloved author who doesn’t deserve this kind of stress and conflict in his life. I worry when I look at the history of Cochran and his business. I worry that on one side of this mess or the other — or possibly both — are people trying to manipulate and take advantage of Peter Beagle.
I cordially invite those people to go to hell.
One of the most difficult things about watching this unfold is not being able to do anything to help an author so many of us care about. Right now, I’m not aware of anything that can be done, except to wait. That may change as things move forward.
For now, the only thing I can do is tell Mr. Beagle that of all the fans and authors I’ve spoken to about this, of all the blog posts and commentary I’ve read, one thing is very clear: your friends, fans, and colleagues love and support you, and we wish you all the best.
ETA: Another relevant link.
- A note that the Peter S. Beagle Facebook page is controlled by Connor Cochran, and is therefore not a reliable way to communicate with Mr. Beagle.