A Lawsuit Over Inmate's Cookbook

Posted: December 14, 1989

A prison inmate who wrote a 583-page cookbook while serving a life sentence for murder is suing a Montgomery County man who he says promised to help publish it.

Bernard Jerry-El, 43, now at the State Correctional Institution at Pittsburgh, filed the lawsuit against Edward J. Reilly of Devon, who he says took the original copy of his cookbook in 1987 to photocopy and send to publishers.

But Reilly lied about his connections with publishers and never returned the cookbook, according to Jerry-El's lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Montgomery County Court.

The cookbook, titled Rare & Recent Pennsylvania Recipes, is a compilation of more than 20 years of his mother's recipes, Jerry-El said in the lawsuit, which he filed himself through the mail.

He is seeking $3 million in the suit.

Jerry-El said in the lawsuit that he tried to find a publisher for the cookbook since he completed it in 1979, two years after his murder conviction.

In 1981, he wrote an editor at Random House Inc. in New York. The editor said the company was not interested. But she suggested that he rename the book, then called Unique Cook/Health Book, to "something more commercially attractive," according to the lawsuit.

Jerry-El then wrote to a literary agent in Washington, who told him she couldn't represent him because of a conflict with other clients, according to the suit.

Jerry-El revised the cookbook from 1982 to 1986. A year later, he found Reilly's name in an industry trade publication and wrote to ask him for help, according to the suit.

Reilly visited Jerry-El at Graterford Prison in April 1987, according to the lawsuit, and agreed orally to photocopy the original manuscript and send it to potential publishers.

Jerry-El said in the lawsuit that Reilly claimed to have sent the manuscript to a publishing company in Colorado. When he contacted the company, Jerry-El was told the manuscript was never received, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit says Reilly "presented a fraud to secure over two decades of plaintiff's mother's recipes, an heirloom."

Reilly could not be reached for comment.

comments powered by Disqus