Genre-defining fantasy author Peter S. Beagle, whose seminal novel The Last Unicorn was adapted into a comic series by IDW in 2010, has charged long-time business manager Connor Cochran with fraud and elder abuse.
The documents, filed in Alameda County Court on November 24th, allege that Cochran was “a publisher, editor, and financial manager who has cheated his partner and client (amongst other acts, in fraudulently depriving him of his own intellectual property).” The suit goes on to claim Cochran “defamed” the 76 year old author to fans, family members and the public at large by indicating “that he is incompetent and/or an alcoholic, amongst other lies.”
The suit was posted online yesterday afternoon, receiving wider attention that evening when twitter user @jamescomins tweeted the link to bestselling The Sandman: Overture author Neil Gaiman, a longtime friend of Beagle’s who called the situation “very troubling indeed” in his retweet of the information.
Cochran replied via a statement posted to his Conlan Press website last night, calling the suit “frivolous” and “self-contradictory…based upon false understandings and credulousness.” Cochran further claimed it “sabotages everything that Avicenna, Conlan Press, Connor Cochran, and many others have labored to build for Peter for the past decade and a half.”
Here, the “Avicenna” Cochran references is a corporation Beagle’s suit alleges that Cochran created in order to “appropriate” Beagle’s work by inducing the author to transfer his” intellectual property rights” to it. The suit characterizes Avicenna as “a sham corporation…with intent to defraud.”
Beagle contends that his own “lack of business or financial acumen has long make him an easy target for those who would like to take advantage of his literary successes,” and that Cochran, via Avicenna, advised him that “Beagle’s Fifty Percent (50%) share of Avicenna” constituted “a good investment.” The suit describes this as the reason for Beagle’s bleak financial situation, where the author is currently unable to “maintain a comfortable standard of living.”
Perhaps even more troubling, the 46-page filing includes claims of “Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress.” These describe a situation in June of this year wherein Beagle, in investigating his legal options with regard to charges of elder abuse, unintentionally forwarded Cochran an email alerting the manager to talks the author had with lawyers on the subject.
According to the suit, Cochran emailed Beagle’s children, friends, and even Beagle’s attorney following this incident, claiming Beagle’s mental condition was “compromised.” The suit claims this led Beagle’s children, Kalisa, Dan and Victoria, to join Cochran in calling for tests of Beagle’s mental capacity. Beagle’s suit claims he initially passed a medical evaluation conducted by a doctor of Cochran’s choosing, but later the doctor incorporated material Cochran supplied about Beagle’s mental state into the evaluation findings.
“She retracted her reference to that material later,” the suit states, “but it was too late for Beagle. The original report had already cost him an opportunity to purchase life insurance, and damaged his self-esteem considerably.”
Beagle’s children have apparently cosigned the statement on Cochran’s Conlan Press website, which claims that Beagle’s “medical condition and personal circumstances” have been “deteriorating.” The statement describes Beagle as having “forgotten many key facts and people…filling in the blanks with things that never happened.”
Cochran’s statement concurs that Beagle is susceptible to predatory actions by a third party, but the manager alleges that Beagle’s current legal team, rather than himself and Avicenna, is the predator. “[Beagle’s] condition made him exceptionally vulnerable to undue influence by individuals who did not have Peter’s interests at heart, but instead sought an immediate windfall for themselves.”
Beagle’s suit also alleges charges of physical elder abuse during his The Last Unicorn film screening tour, which launched in April 2013 and concluded in May 2015 after “Nearly 300 screenings in 153 different cities, covering thirty American states and eight Canadian provinces.” The suit claims this “equates to an average of one screening every two to three days for a period of two full years,” but specifies that “the screenings were often scheduled even more closely” and barely allowed for Beagle to take “brief trips home.” Allegedly, tour organizers also required that Beagle stay with fans and supporters as opposed to a hotel, which left him exhausted from having to be “‘on’ all the time.”
Cochran’s official statement claims that Beagle’s council ” has chosen to broadcast its frivolous claims through social media and the press, rather than trust that her case will succeed in court.” However, Cochran himself also now appears to have joined the online discussion surrounding the suit. A Reddit user by the handle ‘connorfc‘ has been responding to comment threads throughout the day with intimate details of Peter’s life and information surrounding the case. The user dismissed the charges as “frivolous.”
Cochran’s statement also includes alleged messages of support sent to him, his company Conlan Press and the Avicenna corporation. Among them are these words from Peter B. Gillis, who adapted The Last Unicorn into a graphic novel format for IDW: “I have known Connor Cochran for decades as a colleague and friend. He has acted as my agent and business manager for well over a decade, and he has consistently and faithfully represented my interests.”
Notably, the testimonials reproduced in Cochran’s statement are primarily sourced from individuals who have benefited directly from Cochran’s relationship with Beagle. Last year, Bleeding Cool reported on another set of claims that allege unsavory dealings made by Cochran and Conlan Press. One hopes that the current suit will create a better situation for the author however it shakes out, as this is no way for anyone to spend their golden years.