Clifford Irving, R.I.P.

The most famous hoaxer in literature.

Clifford Irving, who died yesterday at the age of 87, was only a moderately successful journeyman author of fiction and non-fiction books. Few outside of the world of book publishing would have ever heard of him, except for one book that, for better or worse, made him a household name: The Autobiography of Howard Hughes.
Hughes, one of the most famous (and richest) of eccentrics, had vanished from public view in 1958. A vast fortune can buy you a lot of privacy. By the early 1970s, he had attained nearly mythic stature as a recluse. Irving, having stumbled upon the unpublished memoirs of an intimate former Hughes associate, gambled that Hughes would value his privacy enough that he would tolerate a fake autobiography rather than refute it publicly.
Irving, obviously a born con man, convinced his publisher, McGraw-Hill, to give him an advance of $750,000, a colossal sum by the standards of the day. Dell paid $400,000 for the paperback rights. Life magazine paid $250,000 for the first serial rights. The Book of the Month Club guaranteed $325,000.
The first printing was enormous. But it had to be pulped, as Irving lost his bet. Hughes called a reporter for the New York Times, whom he had last spoken to in 1958, and declared it a fake. The reporter was sure it was really Hughes. Then he set up a conference call with seven other reporters, carried live by television and radio, denouncing the book.
Once the doubts had been sowed, McGraw-Hill investigated and found that the check for Hughes’s share of the advance had been endorsed by “H. R. Hughes” and deposited into a Swiss account that had been opened by Irving’s wife. Irving went to jail for 17 months, and the manuscript vanished into the vaults of McGraw-Hill.
That was a pity since everyone who ever read it said that the book was a page-turner; the best thing that Irving ever wrote. After forty years, as thoroughly hidden away as Hughes himself, Irving’s literary, if fraudulent, masterpiece was finally published as an ebook in 2012.
As far as I know, Irving never won any awards for his writing, but if there were one for literary chutzpah, he would have retired the trophy.
12
Shares
Google+ Print

Clifford Irving, R.I.P.

Must-Reads from Magazine

Ari Fuld and the Truth About Palestinians

Terror is a choice.

Ari Fuld described himself on Twitter as a marketer and social media consultant “when not defending Israel by exposing the lies and strengthening the truth.” On Sunday, a Palestinian terrorist stabbed Fuld at a shopping mall in Gush Etzion, a settlement south of Jerusalem. The Queens-born father of four died from his wounds, but not before he chased down his assailant and neutralized the threat to other civilians. Fuld thus gave the full measure of devotion to the Jewish people he loved. He was 45.

19
Shares
Google+ Print

John Kerry Gives the Iranian Theocrats Hope

The end of the water's edge.

It was the blatant subversion of the president’s sole authority to conduct American foreign policy, and the political class received it with fury. It was called “mutinous,” and the conspirators were deemed “traitors” to the Republic. Those who thought “sedition” went too far were still incensed over the breach of protocol and the reckless way in which the president’s mandate was undermined. Yes, times have certainly changed since 2015, when a series of Republican senators signed a letter warning Iran’s theocratic government that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (aka, the Iran nuclear deal) was built on a foundation of sand.

9
Shares
Google+ Print

PODCAST: The Kavanaugh Accusation

Podcast: The claims, their legitimacy, and the potential precedent.

We devote the entire podcast today to the allegations of teenage assault issued against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Are we ready to surrender the idea that a person is innocent until proven guilty, even in a non-legal proceeding? Give a listen.

7
Shares
Google+ Print

Democrats Have Disgraced Themselves over Brett Kavanaugh

Institutional collapse.

With the demise of the filibuster for judicial nominations, the Senate has become a more partisan body. Members of the opposition party no longer have to take difficult votes to confirm presidential nominees, and so they no longer have to moderate their rhetoric to avoid the appearance of hypocrisy. Many expected, therefore, that Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings would tempt Democrats to engage in theatrics and hyperbole. Few, however, foresaw just how recklessly the Judiciary Committee’s Democratic members would behave.

234
Shares
Google+ Print

What Is Going on in Sunspot, New Mexico?

A mystery.

While the nation’s attention is focused on the Carolina coast, something very odd is happening across the country in Sunspot, New Mexico.

49
Shares
Google+ Print