A former St. Louis-area professor who recently published a book about a cast of characters from the Nebraska Sandhills now finds himself accused of plagiarism.

A dispute over who really wrote three of the 23 chapters in "Nebraska Stories" prompted legal threats from Stuart Jenkins, the Nebraska native who inspired the book.

And it led Craig Savoye, a former staff writer with the Christian Science Monitor, to pay a monetary settlement and agree to remove the disputed chapters from future editions of his self-published book.

The showdown over a collection of whimsical character sketches represents the latest personal conflict between Savoye and Jenkins, who now works as an executive with a national footwear company in Denver.

On Tuesday, Jenkins had a public relations firm distribute a news release about the matter.

"He wants to get revenge," Savoye said Wednesday.

Fallout over the incident also may have cost Savoye his faculty position at Principia College in Elsah, Ill.

Savoye recently lost his job as a mass communications professor at the 500-student liberal arts college. Officials at the college, which bills itself as a school for Christian Scientists, declined to discuss why.

Savoye also said he could not talk about the dismissal. But Jenkins said after he notified the college about his plagiarism claim, the college launched an independent investigation that led to Savoye's firing.

"I don't run the college," Jenkins said. "I didn't do the investigation by the independent fact finder. Is the college colluding with me to exert a vendetta? Are the martians going to land tomorrow?"

Copyright infringement cases often are messy, and this one is no exception.

The disputed chapters were derived from stories the late Wayne Jenkins used to tell family and friends on his Custer County cattle ranch.

The rancher always said the colorful tales of cowboys and horsemen were true, but he might have embellished them a bit.

Stuart Jenkins often retold his father's stories in social settings, which usually prompted his audience to suggest he write them down. So that's what he did in 1999.

He found putting the stories on paper required the addition of substantial detail for the sake of imagery and plot. So in the process of writing them, he put his own stamp on the tales.

Jenkins, an alumnus of Principia, was attending a social gathering at the college in 2000 when he told some of the stories. That's when Savoye said, as a writer, he could help turn the stories into a book.

Jenkins said he later gave copies of his manuscripts to Savoye, who edited them and sent them back. Jenkins said he did not like the edits and talk of a collaboration ended.

Meanwhile, Jenkins' brother -- a former classmate of Savoye's at Principia -- introduced the writer to his father and other Sandhills ranchers. Savoye said he spent four years conducting 65 interviews to gather material before releasing "Nebraska Stories" in November.

Jenkins said he recognized strong similarities to his own writing in three chapters. And while he was acknowledged for having inspired the book's concept, he was given no credit for authorship.

"I figured a professor of journalism should know better," Jenkins said.

He said he e-mailed Savoye Dec. 18, asking the author if he had sought permission to use his material, and Savoye responded he didn't use anything belonging to Jenkins.

So Jenkins hired a Denver attorney with expertise in copyright law. The lawyer sent Savoye a letter asking him to cease publication and distribution of the book.

In recent weeks, the sides negotiated the settlement, avoiding a lawsuit, Jenkins said. He provided the Journal Star a copy of the three-page settlement, signed by both him and Savoye.

It says the disputed chapters are the work and property of Jenkins and may not appear in future editions. Moreover, Savoye agreed to pay a modest fee to Jenkins and must destroy all unsold copies of the book in its current form.

Savoye said he obtained the backbone material for the disputed chapters from an interview with Jenkins' father. He said he believed the men had a verbal agreement that allowed him to paraphrase Jenkins' writings for the book.

Savoye said he signed the settlement because he could not afford to defend the case in court. Plus, without written proof that Jenkins allowed him to use his material, he figured he would lose the case.

The $14.95 book sold about 1,500 copies, almost entirely in Nebraska, Savoye said.

"That's not something I can fight," he said. "The person with more resources wins."

But there's a little more to the story.

From 2003 to 2007, Jenkins served as trustee board chairman and CEO for the nonprofit corporation that oversees Principia College. In early 2007, the college newspaper -- under Savoye's guidance -- published a story about a secret, 55-percent pay raise the board gave Jenkins.

The raise came at a time when faculty salaries had been frozen. In response, the faculty issued a vote of no confidence in Jenkins.

That's really what the plagiarism action is about, Savoye said.

Their past disputes have nothing to do with the copyright case, Jenkins responded. It's about one writer claiming another writer's work without giving credit.

"I wasn't out to get a bunch of money," Jenkins said. "I wanted to get my property back. And I did."

Reach Joe Duggan at 473-7239 or jduggan@journalstar.com.