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April 21, 2021

Simon & Schuster refuse to distribute book written by cop who shot Breonna Taylor

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Simon & Schuster is making headlines again, although this time not about the impending Penguin Random House Simon & Schuster mega-merger-to-dwarf-all-other-mergers.

As well as publishing their own titles, S&S distribute books for other publishers, including Oneworld, Skyhorse Publishing, Insight Editions—and Post Hill Press. It was announced last week by the Louisville Courier Journal that Tennessee-based indie publisher Post Hill Press, which specializes in Christian and conservative books, would be publishing The Fight for Truth: The Inside Story Behind the Breonna Taylor Tragedy, written by Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly.

Breonna Taylor was shot dead on March 13, 2020, after armed officers with a warrant to search for drugs raided Taylor’s apartment. Mattingly, who was first on the scene, was shot in the leg by Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker, who believed intruders were breaking in. Officers returned fire over 30 times, killing Taylor. Mattingly fired six shots himself (none apparently fatal) but was not charged for his actions because under Kentucky law, they constituted self-defense. However, after the trial, two grand jurors publicly stated they believed more Louisville Metro Police officers should face criminal charges for their roles in the case, as reported by the Louisville Courier Journal.  Mattingly is still employed by the Louisville Police Department.

Shortly after the book announcement, angry protestors took to social media to express their rage over giving Mattingly a platform. A petition started on MoveOn, which called on S&S to cancel distribution of the book, gathered over 45,000 signatures, stating:

The book, which is titled The Fight For Truth: The Inside Story Behind the Breonna Taylor Tragedy is a brazen attempt to rehabilitate the image of Mattingly, who still has his job and has never served time.

Breonna has already lost her life due to the actions of this officer. She will never be able to tell her story. Mattingly shouldn’t either.

In swift response, only 12 hours after Post Hill’s Press announcement, S&S put out a statement on Twitter saying:

Like much of the American public, earlier today Simon & Schuster learned of plans by distribution client Post Hill Press to publish a book by Jonathan Mattingly. We have subsequently decided not be involved in the distribution of this book.

Dropping high-profile books is becoming something of a habit for big publishers. Hachette had a ropey 2020, canning Woody Allen’s memoir after staff staged a walkout, and cancelling  journalist Julie Burchill’s book contract in response to her Islamophobic comments on Twitter. And back in 2017 Simon & Schuster dropped Milo Yiannopoulos’s controversial memoir.

However, it seems vultures are always waiting to drag away and feed off dead carcasses: Arcade Publishing revived Allen’s book, Stirling Publishing acquired Burchill’s, Yiannopoulos self-published… and Post Hill Press intend to continue with Mattingly’s book, even if it means they have to distribute themselves. A spokesperson for the company told the Associated Press:

“His story is important and it deserves to be heard by the public at large. We feel strongly that an open dialogue is essential to shining a light on the challenging issues our country is facing.”

Many will disagree, including Simon & Schuster who stepped up and took swift action in this instance. It seems that may not be enough to stop this book seeing the light of day later this year.

 

 

Nikki Griffiths is the managing director of Melville House UK.

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