Author Bill Bryson Takes Agent to Court


     MANHATTAN (CN) - Bestselling author Bill Bryson sued his agent, claiming he "failed to perform some of the most fundamental duties of an agent," including forwarding royalties, and "stonewalled inquiries from publishers and his own client ... undermining Bryson's livelihood and reputation."
     Bryson, 60, has written a string of bestsellers, including "A Walk in the Woods," "Down Under," and "A Short History of Nearly Everything." He lives in England.
     He sued Jed Mattes Inc. in New York County Supreme Court.
     Bryson accuses his former agent, Fred Morris, "acting as JMI," of a multitude of sins.
     "This action arises from Fred Morris's misconduct and profound neglect of his duties as the literary agent of author Bill Bryson," the complaint states. "For a period of years, Morris, acting as JMI, failed to perform some of the most fundamental duties of an agent. He failed to remit royalties he received for Bryson; he failed to forward draft contracts he received for Bryson to review and sign; and he stonewalled inquiries from publishers and from his own client, denying them basic information. Morris hid his failures and misconduct while they were undermining Bryson's livelihood and reputation. When Bryson began to uncover the derelictions, Morris cut off contact with him.
     "Despite having abandoned his responsibilities as Bryson's literary agent, and despite Bryson's revocation of the agency, Morris has insisted, through attorneys he engaged, that JMI is entitled to continue collecting a commission of fifteen percent of Bryson's earnings on the very works Morris has neglected.
     "In addition, Morris has refused to honor Bryson's repeated requests for an independent accounting. Instead, Morris purported to perform an accounting of his own, which was incomplete, riddled with errors and patently unreliable.
     In an effort to recover some of what he has lost and to restore the responsible management of his career, Bryson seeks a declaration confirming that JMI is no longer his agent and is not entitled to commissions on any existing or future contracts; an accounting of all sums JMI has received for Bryson's works; and damages for JMI's breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract."
     Morris took over Jed Mattes Inc., based in Stuyvesant, N.Y., after Mattes died in 2003, according to the complaint.
     Bryson seeks an accounting, declaratory judgment that JMI is no longer his agent, and damages for breach of conduct and breach of fiduciary duty. He is represented by Edward Davis with Davis Wright Tremaine.