The case of the mysterious phisherman

SOMEONE HAS BEEN STEALING MANUSCRIPTS but no one knows why. Madison Ketcham/Vulture

Coco Meyerhofer | Writer

January 14, 2022

So, let’s get straight to the point: someone was stealing unpublished book manuscripts. 

Once upon a time, Publishers Marketplace, a book industry website, made known that Little, Brown, a publishing company, would be publishing a brand new novel. This book is called Re-Entry, written by James Hannaham, and edited by Ben George.

Mr. Hannaham, a couple of days after his big news, received an email from his editor, Mr. George. Now, this wasn’t an ordinary email: Mr. George had emailed Mr. Hannaham from a rarely used address on Mr. Hannaham’s website asking for the latest draft of Mr. Hannaham’s book. 

Alas! It was deceit!

It wasn’t Mr. George who emailed for Mr. Hannaham’s manuscript, but a scoundrel! Mr. Hannaham had accidentally emailed his novel to a devious charlatan who had been stealing other author’s book manuscripts. 

JAMES HANNAHAM was one of many authors whose manuscripts were stolen. Guernica Magazine

And he had no idea who the thief was.

The End.

Until now.

Lacking any kind of motive or payoff, for the past five years, someone had been procuring hundreds of manuscripts, and Mr. Hannaham was just a very small tip of a very big iceberg. He was among countless other authors who had fallen victim to a mysterious international trickery scam. Deceiving writers, editors, agents, and anyone in an author’s sacred literary circle, this man, woman, or person (even thieves deserve to have their identity respected), would fraudulently email (vocab word of the day: phish) any one of those individuals, like,

“Hey, Margaret Atwood,

Heard The Handmaid’s Tale was like, super popular. Want to send me your most recent manuscript on what you’ve been working on?

Love, Henry (your real agent).”

They would alter the email they were imitating with tiny changes–like instead of, they would replace the “m” with an “rn”—and, unfortunately, most authors or editors didn’t catch the differences.

And that’s not the strangest thing about this case! The thief was just collecting manuscripts to simply collect them; they didn’t show up on the black market or the dark web, and there were no ransoms. The endgame of it all was the real mystery. SCHS students agree: “I could understand his motives if he was selling the unfinished manuscripts for profit,” junior Tazwell Poteet said, “but this makes zero sense to me.”

“I think this is just such a funny scandal,” junior Ashley Jahed said. “If I was an author, I’d feel a bit embarrassed by the fact that there are people out there reading my unfinished manuscript.”

But, alas, the mystery is solved!

Just last Wednesday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested a man, Filippo Bernardini, a 29-year-old rights coordinator for Simon & Schuster UK, under the assumption and findings that over five or more years, he had managed to steal hundreds of unpublished manuscripts. Besides that, there’s still not much information on the case.

He still has not elucidated as to why he was obtaining these manuscripts.

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