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Last Updated: Saturday, 2 October, 2004, 13:32 GMT 14:32 UK
Defence begins in Steinbeck row
Elaine Steinbeck
Elaine Steinbeck died last year
Lawyers for the estate of author John Steinbeck's widow are seeking to quash a lawsuit begun by his other relatives over royalties and copyright.

Steinbeck's son, Thomas Steinbeck, and granddaughter Blake Smyle are suing the late Elaine Steinbeck's estate for at least $18m (9.7m).

They are also seeking greater control of Steinbeck's classic novels.

In a statement made on Thursday, the estate and its beneficiaries said they would "vigorously defend" the case.

The defendants include the estate of Elaine Steinbeck, who died last year, two sisters of Elaine Steinbeck, Elaine Steinbeck's daughter from a previous marriage and four grandchildren.

Susan Kohlmann, who works for the firm representing the defendants, said the allegations had already been sorted out in a confidential settlement in 1983.

"It is unfortunate that Thom Steinbeck and Blake Smyle have used the death of Elaine Steinbeck in 2003 as an opportunity to relitigate virtually identical claims resolved more than 20 years ago," said Ms Kohlmann.

"Nothing has changed in all these years to change the nature of that agreement.

"The Elaine Steinbeck estate and its beneficiaries will vigorously defend their rights to retain their interests in John Steinbeck's works."

Steinbeck's estate was originally bequeathed to Elaine on their marriage. In the early 1980s the author's sons from a previous marriage sued for partial control and the case was settled out of court.

The current suit alleges several acts of wrongdoing since that settlement, including undermining a TV mini-series deal for Steinbeck's Travels With Charley.

Elaine Steinbeck has long been admired by many Steinbeck fans, including Edward Albee, Bruce Springsteen and Julie Andrews, as a tireless champion of his legacy.

But she is portrayed in the court papers as jealous and vindictive, cruelly putting distance between John Steinbeck and his two sons.

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