(CN) – Reclusive author J.D. Salinger claims a man writing under the name of J.D. California is about to publish an unauthorized sequel of “The Catcher in the Rye,” violating Salinger’s copyright in the novel and its main character, Holden Caulfield. Salinger also sued London-based Windupbird Publishing, Sweden-based Nicotext, and SCB Distributors, of Gardena, Calif. Salinger calls the new book “a rip-off pure and simple.”
Salinger says the cover of the new book describes it as a “sequel to one of our most beloved classics.”
His complaint in Manhattan Federal Court continues: “The sequel’s author, ‘J.D. California,’ explains that ‘Just like the first novel, he leaves, but this time he’s not at a prep school, he’s at a retirement home in upstate New York. … It’s pretty much like the first book in that he roams around the city, inside himself and his past.'”
Salinger, whose “Catcher in the Rye” is one of the best-selling books of all time – with 65 million copies printed – is not only an extremely private man, but litigious. He succeeded in blocking publication of a biography by the respected biographer Ian Hamilton in 1987, forcing Hamilton to rewrite the book without quoting from Salinger’s unpublished letters. Salinger took on Random House in that case, and won. The decision in the 2nd Circuit set new rules for fair use of letters, complicating the task of biographers. Hamilton rewrote his book and published it as “In Search of J.D. Salinger.”
In his lawsuit, filed Monday, Salinger asks that publication of “60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye” be enjoined, and all copies destroyed.
In the complaint, Salinger’s attorney, Marcia Paul with Davis Wright Tremaine, scorches the John Doe defendant who writes under the pseudonym John David California: “(T)he sequel begins, as does ‘Catcher,’ with Holden Caulfield departure from an institution (prep school in ‘Catcher;’ a nursing home in the sequel) and ends with Holden and his sister Phoebe at the carousel in Central Park. In between, Holden hangs out aimlessly in New York for a few days, encountering many of the same people, visiting many of the same settings, and ruminating in the same (or, in the case of the sequel, an imitative) voice. The sequel is not a parody and it does not comment upon or criticize the original. It is a rip-off pure and simple.”
The complaint describes Salinger, accurately, as “fiercely protective of his intellectual property.” It states that Salinger “has never allowed any derivative works to be made using either ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ or his Holden Caulfield character, did not and would not approve of defendants’ use of his intellectual property. The right to create a sequel to ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ or to use the character of Holden Caulfield in any other work belongs to Salinger and Salinger alone, and he has decidedly chosen not to exercise that right.”
Salinger lives in Cornish, a town of fewer than 2,000 in western New Hampshire. Townspeople are said to respect his privacy and to refuse to tell visitors where he lives. Salinger sued in New York because his agent, Harold Ober Associates, is based there.
Defendant John Doe aka J.D. California is believed to live in New York state. “His precise whereabouts are unknown, despite due investigation,” according to the complaint.
The Associated Press reported today that the pseudonymous J.D. California lives in Sweden. The AP said SCB Distributors provided it with the phone number of the so-called California, and it called the man, who answered the phone and said he lives outside of Goteborg.
Windupbird Publishing claims to have published the sequel in Great Britain. According to Salinger’s lawsuit, it operates out of a Mailboxes, Etc. storefront in London.
Nicotext, based in Boras, Sweden, is also listed as a publisher of the sequel, and has been sent a cease-and-desist letter, Salinger says.
ABP Inc. aka SCB Distributors is based in Gardena, Calif., and is U.S. distributor for Nicotext. “It is currently accepting pre-orders of the sequel from booksellers and intends to begin distributing the sequel on or before Sept. 15, 2009,” according to the complaint.
Salinger says the defendants are acting in bad faith to confuse the public, which is likely to think that he wrote the sequel. He wants publication enjoined, all copies of the book destroyed, damages and costs.