Publisher Pulls Alice Sebold's Memoir As 1981 Rape Conviction Is Overturned

Simon & Schuster said it was working with the author on how to revise her 1999 book "Lucky" after Anthony Broadwater was cleared of the assault it describes.
Author Alice Sebold in 2018.
Author Alice Sebold in 2018.
Leonardo Cendamo via Getty Images

The publishers of Alice Sebold’s “Lucky” are ceasing distribution of the memoir after a man was cleared of the 1981 rape recounted in the book.

“Following the recent exoneration of Anthony Broadwater, and in consultation with the author, Scribner and Simon & Schuster will cease distribution of all formats of Alice Sebold’s 1999 memoir ‘Lucky’ while Sebold and Scribner together consider how the work might be revised,” Simon & Schuster ― which owns Scribner, Sebold’s publisher ― wrote in a statement issued Tuesday, according to Publishers Weekly.

The company reiterated the statement on Twitter early Wednesday.

Broadwater, a Black man, was convicted of Sebold’s rape in 1982 and spent 16 years in prison. According to his attorneys, he was denied parole at least five times because he wouldn’t admit to a crime he didn’t commit.

He was released from prison in 1999, after which he was required to register as a sex offender. Now 61, he was exonerated by a New York trial judge last week.

In 1999’s “Lucky,” Sebold recounted being raped when she was an 18-year-old student at Syracuse University. She explained in the book that she’d picked out another man, not Broadwater, in a police lineup following the assault. By the time Sebold got to the witness stand, however, she identified Broadwater as her attacker.

On Tuesday, the author ― who is best known for 2002’s “The Lovely Bones,” which also deals with sexual assault ― addressed Broadwater’s exoneration in a statement published on Medium.

“I am grateful that Mr. Broadwater has finally been vindicated, but the fact remains that 40 years ago, he became another young Black man brutalized by our flawed legal system,” she wrote. “I will forever be sorry for what was done to him.”

Questions about Broadwater’s conviction resurfaced in 2019 when work began on a planned movie adaptation of “Lucky.” Timothy Mucciante, an executive producer on the project, told The New York Times last month that he “started having some doubts” about the case after noting discrepancies in the script.

Plans for the film, which was to star “You” actor Victoria Pedretti, have since been shelved. On Wednesday, it was announced that a different production team would move forward with a documentary based on the case, to be titled “Unlucky.”