Bestseller suspected of fraud
Website smokinggun.com claims Frey hugely overstated misdemeanours in memoirs.books Updated: Jan 11, 2006 17:49 IST
Only Harry Potter sold more books last year than James Frey's A Million Little Pieces, but was the American's memoir of alcohol and drug-induced mayhem as much fantasy as the boy wizard himself?
Frey's book sold 1.77 million copies last year after being chosen by Oprah Winfrey's book club in September, but one investigative website now says his book was based on lies.
The book's publisher, Random House's Doubleday division, stood by the author and declined to make Frey available for interview. But on his personal Web site bigjimindustries.com he called the article "the latest attempt to discredit me."
"So let the haters hate, let the doubters doubt, I stand by my book, and my life, and I won't dignify this bullshit with any sort of further response," Frey wrote.
"The Man Who Conned Oprah," was the headline on Monday on The Smoking Gun website, a news site owned by Court TV. The article on Frey charges he fabricated serving a prison sentence, exaggerated his role in an FBI investigation and lied about his status as an outlaw "wanted in three states," among other things.
"I was a bad guy," Frey told Winfrey in a television broadcast last October which made him an overnight literary sensation. "If I was gonna write a book that was true, and I was gonna write a book that was honest, then I was gonna have to write about myself in very, very negative ways."
But The Smoking Gun says, "He has demonstrably fabricated key parts of the book, which could- and probably should - cause a discerning reader to wonder what is true in A Million Little Pieces and its sequel, My Friend Leonard."
Random House spokesman Russell Perreault, declined to discuss the Smoking Gun article beyond saying, "We stand in support of our author, James Frey, and his book which has touched the lives of millions of readers."
A spokeswoman for Winfrey did not return calls for comment.
Central to Frey's book, published in 2003, is his assertion that he was charged with assaulting a police officer in Ohio with his car, with inciting a riot, with possession of crack cocaine and felony drunk driving- charges that he wrote resulted in him serving a three-month prison term.
But Smoking Gun editor William Bastone said that incident was really "as vanilla an incident as you will ever see."
"The overall majority of contentions he makes in the book are not borne out by contemporaneous police records or by interviews we conducted with police and court officials in Ohio and Michigan," Bastone told Reuters in an interview yesterday.
The Smoking Gun's website displays the original police officer's report of the 1992 incident which shows Frey was found drunk in his car without a driver's license but did not, as he wrote, serve time behind bars for the incident or behave in the outrageous manner portrayed in his book.
"He (Frey) was polite and cooperative at all times. He was later released on 733 dollars cash bond," the police report from the October. 24, 1992, incident concludes.
And of Frey's claim that he was the subject of an FBI drug investigation while at university, Bastone published a police report revealing him as a bit player in a minor drug probe rather than the "outlaw" portrayed in his memoir.
"In off-the-record interviews with us, Frey admitted embellishing facts in the book for dramatic impact," Bastone said, adding that Frey later backed off that stance and his lawyers have since threatened to sue.
Frey also told The Smoking Gun during the course of three interviews before the article was published that he had sought to have his legal records expunged when his book was first published in hardcover in 2003, Bastone said.
Frey's lawyer Martin Singer was not immediately available for comment. But in a letter to the Smoking Gun dated January. 6 and published on the Web site, he called The Smoking Gun's assertions defamatory and threatened a lawsuit for millions of dollars in damages.
First Published: Jan 11, 2006 13:32 IST