It’s hard to imagine the story of the runaway bestseller “The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven” – revealed to be a total fraud after selling more than a million copies – getting any more bizarre, but it has.
William Alexander Malarkey, now 20, is suing publisher Tyndale House over the profits the book generated before Tyndale took it off the market after Malarkey admitted, at age 16, that none of it was true.
The book purported to tell of Alex’s heavenly experiences while in a coma for two months after a car accident when he was 6 years old that left him a quadriplegic.
The complaint was filed in the DuPage County Circuit Court in Illinois, just outside of Chicago, where the publisher is located.
It seeks damages for defamation, deceptive trade practices and violating a state law protecting disabled persons from financial exploitation.
The suit claims the publishing house used a manuscript submitted by Alex Malarkey’s now-estranged father, Kevin Malarkey, assigned Alex authorship and cashed in.
The publishing house, while not directly addressing the claims, told WND it had met all of its obligations under the contract that was signed before the book was released.
“This is a terribly unfortunate situation which deeply saddens all of us at Tyndale. Despite the claims in Alex Malarkey’s lawsuit, Tyndale House paid all royalties that were due under the terms of our contract on his book, ‘The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven,'” a company statement said.
“Tyndale took the book out of print in 2015 when Alex said that he had fabricated the entire story. Any books still available from online vendors are from third party sellers.”
WND reported in 2015 when Tyndale, one of the nation’s larger publishers of Christian books, said it would stop selling the book.
The Washington Post said at the time his “subsequent spiritual memoir – with its assuring description of ‘Miracles, Angels, and Life beyond This World’ – became part of a popular genre of ‘heavenly tourism,’ which has been controversial among orthodox Christians.”
The new case, brought by the Gibbs Law Firm and Jonathan Remijas, explains Alex just turned 20, and he is complaining of the publication of his story following “a car accident that was caused by the negligence of his father, Kevin Malarkey.”
“The accident was so severe that an on-scene official requested that a coroner be called to the scene,” the complaint explains.
“Alex’s father, Kevin Malarkey, concocted a story that, during the time Alex was in a coma, he had gone to Heaven, communicated with God the Father, Jesus, angels, and the devil, and then returned,” the complaint says.
The father then “sold the concocted story, allegedly about Alex’s life and what Alex allegedly experienced, to one of the largest Christian publishers in the Country, Tyndale House.”
None of the royalties, however, went to Alex.
Alex currently resides in Huntsville, Ohio, and is dependent on Social Security, the lawsuit explains.
It says Tyndale sold more than a million copies of the book and possibly the movie rights.
While still a minor, in 2011, Alex publicly described the book as “one of the most deceptive books ever.”
“Now that he is an adult, Alex desires to have his name completely disassociated from the book and seeks a permanent injunction against Tyndale House requiring it to do everything within reason to disassociate his name from the book.”
When Alex’s lawyers tried to get accounting details from the publisher, its lawyers wanted him, before reading it, to agree that its publishing contract was valid, the complaint states.
“On information and belief, despite the fact that Tyndale House made millions of dollars off Alex’s identity and an alleged autobiographical story of his life, Tyndale House paid Alex, a paralyzed young man, nothing.”
“Any one of the millions of people who have read the book or who are familiar with Alex through one of the ancillary publications, will know Alex for the claims that he saw and interacted with God the Father, Jesus, angels and the devil, while he was in a coma. These claims made in the book are entirely false,” the complaint says.
“Tyndale House’s damaging conduct leaves Alex in a position where he is either compelled to tell people that the reason they have become familiar with him is entirely a lie, or he is left with the untenable option of continuing to tell Tyndale House’s string of lies.”
The publisher, the complaint asserts, “represented” that the book is connected to and was approved by Alex, but it wasn’t.
The case seeks compensatory and punitive damages as well as special damages and an injunction.