Gone Fishing

Haven't posted much lately, partly due to a lack of news and partly due to other interests. I'll leave the blog up as a courtesy to researchers but am moving on to other projects.


Making the Morning Rounds

Via the very observant Philobiblos blog we learned of another, The Literary Detective. Good job of spotlighting some suspicious activity in the bookselling realm. I was also drawn to "What were they reading on the Titanic?" but couldn't pull up a copy of the item. I'll go back for another look, care to join me?
(The real mystery is why some of these links don't show up. If the Philobiblos link isn't active you can find it here:


Ambrose: Pants On Fire, Again

An article in the New Yorker revealing further deceptions on the part of the late and popular historian Stephen Ambrose is making the rounds. Quite a number of comments question the importance of Ambrose' lies and plagiarism, seeing the greater good in his popularizing of history. Perhaps they are on the defensive because it is so difficult to make an honest living or speak the truth these days. Though, really, there's nothing new about fabrication and theft as tools of the history trade. Not to say that all who write history avail themselves of those tools of course.


The Diary of a Public Man

Another scholar has attempted to solve the mysteries surrounding The Diary of a Public Man, a high level window on Washington life during the Civil War era. The controversy regarding efforts to identify the Public Man is fascinating. I look forward to seeing this new book.


Mark Twain, Literary Critic

A list of two hundred books from Mark Twain's library. And a story on Twain's marginalia -- his written comments in various of the books.

At the moment the links don't seem to be coming up in the post, here they are:


"Kidnapped" Tale Based on True Story

Robert Louis Stevenson's exciting tale had a basis in fact.


Strangers on a Train

This isn't literary mischief, just plain old murder, but it hooked me so I'll pass it along. ABE Books sends around theme-based ideas for collectors and this time it was mysteries involving trains. Somehow a train traveling across an exotic landscape in the middle of the night just seems the perfect setting for mystery. Here's the link.


The Master Thief

He stole thousands of books and manuscripts. They are still turning up, 150 years later. He was also a forger, and a respected scholar.

Jane Austen's Head is Missing

A bit of statuary really, missing from the Jane Austen Garden.


The Diary of Miss Idilia

That's the title of a memoir of dubious authenticity described here. I found reviews elsewhere but no one as yet seems to have dug for the story behind the book. Let me know if you run across any investigative work on it and I'll keep looking as well. This is one of the times I wish I still had the resources of a big newspaper or magazine to call upon. By the way the link is to a blog I'd call first-rate. Usually the chatty, personal, thoughtful blogs put my innards in a spin. I could go on about exactly why I like this one but then I'd be getting chatty, personal and thoughtful. I will say Lulu's profile presented a great list of "favorite books."


Lobsang Rampa Correspondence

One of the more controversial modern hoaxes concerns "The Third Eye" and other mystical works by Lobsang Rampa. Some of his defenders are fairly ferocious even though it has been shown that he never set foot in Tibet or anywhere near. I am posting the auction link on Mar. 6, 2010 -- as it is an auction it may not remain available.


Sued Over a Book Review

Here's a rather chilling case, a libel suit resulting from an unfavorable book review. Regardless of the outcome it may well discourage serious criticism in the future. At a time when most book reviews appearing on the Internet are untrustworthy garbage, it's a shame to see the work of professionals jeopardized in this way.


Book Marketing Q&A

If you're in the book business on the Internet there's a newsletter I would recommend to your attention, available by signing up at Steve Weber's site. it's called "Selling Books" and looks as though it's done the way newsletters used to be done -- firsthand research and reporting.

Potter Plagiarism?

Here we go again with Harry Potter and plagiarism. Those behind the lawsuit figure it's good for a billion dollars, or was that pounds. Check it out here.


Internet Pirates

She may not have realized she was pillaging the work of others to create her best-seller, as a child of the Internet era she may have thought she was simply "remixing." Right. Well, an interesting discussion follows the report in the Guardian.


The Great Tate Hoax

Many of those who were close to the great Nat Tate hoax claim they knew all along the artist never existed but that may have been face-saving. Here's an excellent look back on what may have been "The Greatest."


"It's a sham, a scam."

That's the nutshell of The New Republic's review of the "new" Nabokov novel just released at $35 by Knopf. As far as anything actually new, the price works out to just over a dollar per page of Nabokov.


Shakespeare Thriller

We don't routinely report on works of fiction but this one may spark discussion as to its factual basis. Said to rely on serious research, the book proposes that Shakespeare could "barely write his own name" and provided cover for the actual author of "his" plays. Various clues have been discovered providing a coded message regarding the name of the true author.


Too Cold? Burn Some Books

Pensioners in Britain are said to be buying up cheap books to burn in lieu of higher priced coal.

Literary Autopsy of the Opium-Eater

Another author has put poor Thomas de Quincy through the slicer-dicer. From the review, it does appear to be a commendable and very readable effort.

Only $499: Clifford Irving's "Hughes"

The first edition of Clifford Irving's Howard Hughes autobiography, one of the grandest literary frauds of all time, is now available for $499, only $150 more than the original price. The book that cost Irving jail time, hung the "con man" label on him, and forced repayment of a big, fat advance is being sold on the Internet by the author's firm, TerrificBooks. The site doesn't offer an explanation of the price jump.


What Did Famous Folks Read?

There's a fascinating project going on at LibraryThing, collecting titles included in the libraries of famous people of the past. Among many you'll find the libraries of Ernest Hemingway, Marilyn Monroe and Tupac Shakur.


Fingerprinting the author

it's too early in the morning for me to quite grasp the meta-book concept but here it is.


Most Wanted Secret Documents

This isn't literary but you might find it intriguing. A country by country list of documents held by government and sought by persons or groups outside government, compiled by Wikileaks.


'Free' Author Helped Himself to Wikipedia

Best-selling author, Wired top editor, hot number on the lucrative speaker circuit, and start-up entrepreneur -- and plagiarist explains himself. We live in an age of the "remix" so it's okay to, um, recycle the works of others.


Forensics to the Rescue

I haven't seen stories lately on the use of forensics in determining the authenticity of major books or documents, but here we have one. "The Archaic Mark" has long been puzzle. Now the only puzzle is, "who dunnit?"


Where Do These Books Belong?

New York City police raided a home for several very good reasons that didn't include suspicion of book theft. But in the course of the raid they turned up a collection of Civil War books valued at $20,000 (probably a conservative estimate). The lady of the house has operated under 25 aliases and has a lengthy rap sheet so authorities suspect she may not have collected the books via legitimate methods, but they have no indication of who the true owner might be.


What's the Point?

I run a bunch of searches that are supposed to pick up stories like this one as they appear, but obviously this has been around a while. Still, interesting for the point the faker makes, that the judges were more interested in the character of the author than in the quality of the book.

Write Like Sarah Palin Contest

SLATE internet magazine is sponsoring a "write like Sarah Palin" contest, and even offers a few examples of her prose for those who don't plan to read the book. Reminds me of an anecdote about the time the Statesman ran a Graham Greene write-alike contest. Greene entered and came in third.


Friend or Faux?

That is the title of an exhibition at the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia presenting and explaining various forgeries, fakes, altered originals and imitations. Some of the masters, for instance Joseph Cosey, are featured.


MS. Found In the Castle's Attic, Part Two

Here's one to send those of you who happen to live in castles scurrying off to the attic. The manuscript found while rooting around in a trunk in the castle attic went off to auction and fetched a hefty sum.


Sobran on Shakespeare's Identity

I had the privilege of acquaintance with journalist Joe Sobran during my all-to-lengthy tour of duty in Washington DC. Unfortunately I was into governmental and political deception rather than the literary sort and so missed an opportunity to talk Shakespeare with him. Here's a discussion along with several reviews of his book revealing The Bard's true identity ... maybe.


Jack Kerouac's Estate Fuels Family Feud

There are many articles on allegations of a forged will and other problems afflicting those who have or hope to profit from the remaining estate of the King of the Beats. This article does a great job of wading through the thick of the controversies.


At the bottom of a trunk, in an old castle...

"Lost manuscript" stories always catch my eye. This one actually may be true. Then again, could be hype to boost the take at auction.


Woodward and Bernstein Hoax?

I don't know where this is headed but a professor who appears to have done his homework is giving a lecture on the famous investigative reporters' relationship with Deep Throat from the "hoax" angle. He's got a book coming out. We'll keep an eye on this one.


Risky Business

Don't think I'd care to be the ghost writer who apparently forged an endorsement by Nelson Mandela for a book "by" another African leader known for conducting military coups. "Paris-based Michel Lafon, which first published the book in French earlier this year, said Sassou-Nguesso provided the preface and offered no further comment."


Holocaust Hoaxers

It really seems a sin that anyone would make up a story about having been through the Holocaust. Here's an author who has asked, "why?"

So, Now Columbus is a Spaniard

A new book "proves" Columbus was Catalan. And his name wasn't really Columbus, that was the name of a pirate he worked with at one time.

Wu Ming Thing

My interview with the Wu Ming gang of radical Italian novelists is up on Joey Skagg's web site. They talk about the new book, pranks, a visit to a Mohawk nation, plagiarism ... lots of interesting topics. If you don't find it right off, check out the LiteratEye archives for column #32.

Dead Men Writing

Should work that authors didn't intend to publish be marketed after they've died? It's happening.


Must-a Got Lost

Interesting collection of "lost manuscript" stories...



Hidden away in a Zurich bank vault, the secret diary of Carl Jung. A lengthy feature story, a great tale about how a very special book finds its way to publication, also fascinating if you are interested in Jung, dreams, archetypes, spirituality that is not religion, confronting personal demons, the secretive family of the man who would - surprise - rather be Jung than Jungian versus the inquiring public, art and writing as therapy ... and perhaps the publishing event of ... the year? the decade? modern times? When you consider the new books, revised books, seminars and workshops, therapeutic theories and personal journeys that will spin off of "The Red Book," the effect is unpredictable.


NOMBS: Not On My Book Shelf

There was in the past a prejudice in literary circles against classics done up as modern leather-bound books. That prejudice probably still exists to some degree but the books have certainly become more collectible. It's understandable as the trend becomes more toward disposable books that appear on screens or pop out of Print On Demand machines. I had to learn the hard way that POD means you are getting what might be called a Xerox of the book -- if the original is shabby, so will be your copy. As for leather-bound modern reprints of classics (re-designed, and with type re-set), I'm certainly tempted in cases where I want a quality reading copy that will be around for years and years, say, the collected works of a favorite poet or that sort of thing. And it looks as though they might prove a good investment, over time.


Denver Broncos Cheerleaders Reading List

OK, so it's not really on my beat ... It's just kind of neat that someone came up with the weird idea of asking them. Wonder if they got prepped on their answers or if this is the real deal?

The Scandal Behind 'Brideshead Revisited'

I can think of friends who would declare this book-excerpt account of life among Great Britain's upper classes in the Roaring '20s to be bizarre and trashy fiction, but they are wonderfully naive about such things. Whether then or now, the only rule that applies to the jaded rich and powerful is "Don't do it in public."

Who Leaked the Kennedy Memoir?

The publisher of Ted Kennedy's memoir has hired a private detective to find out how the New York Times got past the embargo.

Hemingway at War

Hemingway cruising the waters off Cuba early in WWII, armed with a machine gun and grenades, looking for German U-boats? Really.


Who Wrote Shakespeare's Plays?

I'm sure I said somewhere in an earlier entry that I hoped to avoid getting into the Shakespeare argument as it's so well handled elsewhere. However, along came this spat and i had to delve. Thank goodness we normals have a spokesman like Kamm to state our case and lay waste to the kooks. (i confess, I kept reading in hopes someone would turn him on his head).


Drowned Towns

This list isn't about literary fraud but it sure is an eerie subject. It concerns books about towns now under water, as a result of public works projects or acts of nature, and sometimes owing to acts of malevolence. The list includes fiction (particularly mysteries), nonfiction and also a state-by-state and international compilation of towns now submerged. In many cases, remnants of the communities still exist beneath the surface ... complete with skeletons in their closets. (Wouldn't the subject make an interesting photo book, pictures of "then" along with above and below shots of "now.")


Weird Books

ABE has set up a Weird Book Room, featuring their picks of oddball titles. "The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America" just might be a put-on. Ditto, "The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories," though I'm not so sure. "People Who Don't Know They're Dead" could be a bit disturbing. Most are strange but a few look to be the work of serious persons and might be useful to someone or other. What's so strange about a book on how to clip a Poodle? Don't most Poodle owners view them as sort of decorative objects?