A criminal investigation has been launched into Nashville’s Winston-Derek Publishing Group and its president, James W. Peebles, the Nashville Scene has learned.
“We are investigating the events at Peebles’ company as outlined in the Scene and we are starting to talk with people who appear to be victims of the alleged scheme,” confirmed assistant district attorney Jere Sue Adams, who heads up the Fraud and Economic Crime Prosecution Unit in Metro’s Office of the District Attorney General.
The Scene’s Aug. 20, 1998, cover story detailed numerous irregularities in Peebles’ publishing empire. Many writers around the country who’ve paid Winston-Derek to publish their manuscripts have accused Peebles of taking their money and then failing to deliver on the contract.
Peebles has repeatedly said he’s done nothing wrong, and that he’s a victim of a downturn in the book industry. “I don’t know why they are looking at me,” he said. “I haven’t heard from the D.A.’s office.”
Metro Police Detective J.D. Simpson also confirmed the department’s fraud unit has begun assembling materials for the probe.
Meanwhile, the case of disaffected Winston-Derek author Autumn Catlett, who is trying to recover money from Peebles, was heard in General Sessions Court on Oct. 14. From the bench, Judge Casey Moreland advised Catlett to turn her evidence over to the local Attorney General’s office. Moreland said that it appeared from Catlett’s description that Peebles’ actions were “tantamount to criminal behavior.”