Update: The Case of the Copper Heiress Heads to Trial

Update to the update: A settlement agreement has been reached and trial avoided. Here’s the account from MS NBC, where reporter Bill Dedman broke the story and has followed it closely.

The legal world has continued to spin while I’ve been off launching my first mystery, Death al Dente. Many thanks to all of you who bought a copy or borrowed one from the library, came out to hear me speak, or otherwise helped me celebrate. You have made me welcome in libraries and living rooms, uttered kind words at just the right time, and helped make my dream come true.

HuguetteLet’s ease back in to talk of more serious subjects by updating a few stories. First, you all know my fascination with the story of Huguette Clark, the multi-millionaire daughter of William Clark, the scoundrel Copper King who bought himself a U.S. Senate seat from Montana. (Read my earlier posts here.) Huguette’s death in 2011 at 104 set off a battle over her estate — with an estimated value of $300 million — between her financial advisors and the heirs named in her will, and relatives asserting that those same advisors and legal heirs had used undue influence to keep them away from Clark and to insert themselves into her affections and her will. Which will controls? Should certain gifts made during her lifetime be ordered to be repaid, because of improper influence? Did her financial advisors mismanage her funds before her death, to the benefit of themselves and their families? Trial begins Tuesday, September 17, in Surrogate’s Court in Manhattan. I expect nationwide coverage.

Meanwhile, the investigative reporter who broke the story, Bill Dedman of MSNBC, and a EmptyMansions_cover_2013.07.10-197x300relative not involved in the suit, Paul Clark Newell, Jr., have written a book on Huguette and her life called, appropriately, Empty Mansions  (Random House, September 2013). Dedman will be in Missoula in early October for the Festival of the Book — I’ll be there, too, talking mysteries and Montana fiction with other Montana writers, and hope to catch his talk. (And yes, get a signed copy of the book!) Meanwhile, the website for the book  includes excerpts, photographs of Huguette’s doll collection, and aerial video of her Santa Barbara estate — which she hadn’t visited since the 1950s.

Whether you’re writing a historical novel set in the dying years of the Gilded Age, delving into the history of the Copper Kings and their influence over Montana, exploring allegations of financial influence and abuse, or are simply fascinated by the story of a woman who lived out her last years in a hospital, though she wasn’t ill and owned several amazing properties, who collected fine art and doll houses, this book promises to be an intriguing read and a good reference.

(Photos and links courtesy of Bill Dedman.)