Tyndale House Publishers is facing a lawsuit filed by Alex Malarkey over the 2010 bestseller, The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, which describes a car accident involving Malarkey and his purported encounter with heaven, angels, God, and the devil.
The book, which was believed to have been written by Malarkey with his father, Kevin, was pulled from print in 2015 after Malarkey, still a minor, recanted his story. Today, at 20-years-old, Malarkey alleges that his father was the sole author of the book, and he is suing Tyndale for defamation, deceptive trade practices, and five other charges in a lawsuit filed in DuPage County, Ill. on April 9.
“He is seeking punitive damages,” Malarkey’s attorney, Scott Miller of Gibbs Law Firm, told PW. “It’s clear that Tyndale entered a publishing contract without taking the proper steps to ensure the story was true. They should have fact-checked and done their due diligence.”
Malarkey, who is disabled as a result of the car crash depicted in the book, lives with his mother Beth “on the verge of being homeless,” according to the lawsuit, which also claims that neither were involved in the publishing agreement with Tyndale. Further, Malarkey claims that he has never seen the publishing contract or information about the book’s sales, and that neither he nor his mother received any royalties from The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven and its ancillary products.
The lawsuit requests that Tyndale disassociate Malarkey from The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven through “all steps reasonably possible,” according to Miller. For instance, “Tyndale could put out a statement apologizing, and they could buy back all the books on the market,” he said.
Malarkey has chosen not to sue his father, according to Miller, who confirmed that Kevin Malarkey is still alive after recent reports mistakenly referred to him as deceased.
In response to the lawsuit, Tyndale House said it was “deeply saddened,” but maintains that royalties were paid and that continued book sales are out of their hands.
“This is a terribly unfortunate situation,” the publisher said. “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. 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.”
The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven was one of a spate of “heaven tourism” books that came from Christian publishers as recently as 2015. The trend has since slowed due to questions about the authenticity and Scriptural relevance of the stories, with some bookstores even dropping the books altogether.