Monday, 16 November 2009

BOOK NEWS: Patricia Cornwell sues for lost earnings

Larceny, she wrote: Patricia Cornwell sues

Best-selling crime writer claims millions in earnings have gone missing

Patricia Cornwell

The $10m-a-year author Patricia Cornwell acknowledges she is 'much luckier than most', but adds: 'I don't want to complain about this, except that it's not right'

A flashy Ferrari disappears. Then the aggrieved owner begins to suspect that her bank accounts have leaked tens of millions of dollars without explanation. If this was the plot of an airport suspense novel, you'd expect violence before 20,000 feet. If it was real-life America, you'd expect a fat lawsuit.

We are in lawsuit territory here. But the plaintiff, as it happens, is none other than Patricia Cornwell, the crime writer who specialises in skulduggery and, indeed, the occasional murder. Better still, her latest book featuring, as ever, the forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta, called The Scarpetta Factor, is partly about victims of a giant crooked Ponzi scheme of the Bernard Madoff variety.

While touring for the new book, the 17th in the Scarpetta series, Ms Cornwell was peppered with questions about a lawsuit quietly filed last month against a New York-based financial management firm, Anchin, Block & Anchin, which looked after all her affairs until July. She is claiming that she should be about $40m richer than she is and is accusing them of mismanaging her funds.

Because the case is ongoing, Ms Cornwell, 53, has so far restricted herself to only the occasional, oblique comment about her cash reserves (she is reported to earn about $10m per year as one of the world's most prolific best-selling novelists) and what it was that the defendants may or may not have done.

The details of the complaint include: that since 2005, the company has been negligent in handling rental properties and other assets and that one of the partners of the firm wrote a cheque for $5,000 for the bar mitzvah of their daughter on funds in a Cornwell account. The writer had not even met the young lady.

And there is the revealing snippet that she blurted at the weekend to an interviewer with the Courier-Mail newspaper of Australia, about the vanished sports car. "We have no records of what happened to one of my Ferraris," she said. "You trust someone to sell it for you and you don't have any idea what you got for it."

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