Love the Kennedys and Nobody Gets Hurt
What happened next remains a matter of significant dispute more than 10 years later. In Crichton’s recollection, she and Little, Brown didn’t learn about the confidentiality agreement until after they made their offer to me. Crichton also says that the reason the deal was ultimately scrapped was that the publishing house’s lawyers felt it presented too much risk. I am certain, however, that my agent and I told Crichton about the confidentiality agreement before she made the offer, and that her lawyers said it was no problem.
Still, weeks were going by with no written contract from the publishing house — and the drumbeat of bad press kept getting louder.
On May 4, 2000, my agent, Joni Evans, got a call from Crichton: Little, Brown was backing out of the deal. They weren’t going to publish American Son. Evans was shocked: In publishing, your word is your bond. But Crichton said the book had become too hot to handle. “They’re killing this book,” she said to Evans. “They’re just killing it.”
Evans called me with the news. I felt sick to my stomach. But at least we would have a little time to weigh our options. Crichton had said that Little, Brown wouldn’t go public with the news until Evans and I had discussed how to spin it in a way that would help us to find a new publisher for a book so embarrassingly and publicly disowned.
Perhaps 15 minutes after that brief phone call ended, my phone rang again. It was Keith Kelly, the longtime media reporter for the New York Post. “How do you feel about Little, Brown dropping your book?” he asked. Half an hour later, I walked outside my apartment to get some air and was ambushed by a camera crew from a tabloid television show. Apparently, Little, Brown hadn’t wasted any time. (Crichton said she did not leak the story.)
The next morning’s Post reported that Little, Brown was cutting me loose. Crichton told the Post she hadn’t been pressured by Kennedy family associates. She “didn’t realize” I had signed a confidentiality agreement, she said. “Knowing that now, I really felt we had no choice but to pull out.” Whether she meant it or not, to me the implication was clear: Not only was I a Kennedy traitor, I was also a liar.
I was stunned — but there wasn’t much I could do to push back. My book homeless, my reputation shattered, I needed another publisher badly, and calling into question the integrity of my former one wouldn’t help my cause.