The one-month custody battle over a long-lost letter to Beat generation author Jack Kerouac from his driving character, Neal Cassady, has caused more cross-country subplots, side trips and diversions than Cassady and Kerouac took in “On the Road.”
The literary letter in question is likely worth millions and is the subject of a new dispute concerning Jack Kerouac’s estate, as reported by SF Gatein an article titled “Beat-era figure’s sexy, literary letter fuels fracas.”
Jack Kerouac is credited with inventing the free-flowing beat style of writing that was popular in the 1950s and 60s. He did not create the style on his own though. It was only after receiving a letter from his friend Neal Cassady that Kerouac adopted the style and used it in his most famous work On the Road.
The central issue is who owns the letter and, naturally, how proceeds from the sale of the letter should be distributed.
Kerouac’s estate is currently controlled by the family of his late wife. However, his will divided his estate between various people.
The letter was to be put up for auction.
A court must now decide if the proceeds from the sale of the letter should be distributed according to the terms of Kerouac’s will. Not to be left out in the cold, Cassady’s family is also involved in the case. Why? They might have a copyright claim to the contents of letter.
This is an interesting case and it will likely take a long time to resolve if previous battles over Kerouac’s estate are any guide. The article linked above has a rundown of those previous battles for those who are interested.