When Berkley Books announced it was canceling the Feb. 3 release of Herman Rosenblat's Holocaust memoir, Angel at the Fence, the publisher said it would demand that Rosenblat and his agent Andrea Hurst repay the entire advance.
In the days since Berkley yanked Rosenblat's book, Hurst has consulted lawyers to "protect her interests," while a lawyer for film producer Harris Salomon told me tonight that their side is considering a fight against publisher's decision to pull the book.
On Dec. 28, Hurst told the New York Times that the book was sold for "less than $50,000." Agents usually take 15 percent of any book sale, so Hurst would have pocketed less than $7,500 for the deal. She hasn't yet returned any money. "I am seeking legal advice to protect my interests," she emailed me later that evening. Recouping the advance will be tricky for Berkley, because a "bulk of the money received so far" was paid out to ghost-writer Susanna Margolis, Hurst said. One source said that Herman so far was paid only $4,000 for the memoir. Hurst hasn't been contacted yet by Berkley's legal department. "I have received nothing from Berkley yet. I am sure I will hear soon," she emailed.
Hurst also claims that she was misled by Herman. "The more I learn about this story the more unbelievable it becomes. That a family would hide this lie and his daughter even went to the Oprah show with him," she wrote me. "In the end though, it is Herman that continued to tell the story, whatever his reasons were. All I ever wanted to do was help bring a hope filled story to the world. After I read his story in Guideposts I was very touched. At the end Herman said his dream was to have a book someday. I wanted to help him make his dream come true. From a dream to a nightmare, it is still unbelievable to me."
Early on the morning of Dec. 30, Hurst emailed that she isn't planning to fight Berkley at this time. "I have NO intention of fighting Berkley in any way and I [don't] have legal representation at this time."
Harris Salomon is also weighing his legal options. This evening, I spoke with SaraLynn Mandel, a lawyer from Thousand Oaks, CA, who says she is now representing Salomon. "There's a feeling that [Berkley is] interfering with the book being published, and the movie getting made. It appears they are not publishing the book. Do they have that right? Have they appropriately looked at the information, and made a decision based on the information?" she said by phone.
Mandel, a partner with the Pasadena firm Mandel & Adriano, told me she had no connection to Salomon until yesterday. She was outraged that Berkley had canceled Herman's memoir, and got in touch with Salomon to offer her legal services. "I believe there could be not just a defense, but also an offensive position here," Mandel said. "I don't think the whole thing has been appropriately handled by the publisher. I don't think the publisher had taken the time to calmly look at this and see what they wanted to do. There was a knee jerk reaction."
Mandel says Harris could argue that the negative reaction to Rosenblat's story following Berkley's announcement has damaged his ability to make his movie based on Rosenblat's life. "I believe there is the potential for some claims if they've damaged the ability for Harris to make the movie," she said, citing tortious interference as one possible case to pursue.
Rosenblat hasn't commented on his fabricated memoir, beyond the statement released on Dec. 27. Mandel says she spoke with Rosenblat today and his family has instructed him not to talk to the media. Mandel, who is not representing Rosenblat, said he has been considering releasing an additional statement via YouTube, but no decisions have been made yet.