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?

The Plagiarism Plague

Yet another report from the plagiarism front, this time it's Barbie doll research ripped off. The case mentioned in this thoughtful overview.


True-Life Novel

A new genre to answer to the dilemma of the false memoir? At least in the historical field it should be helpful. As far as a person making up lies about their own their own life, that's still a crock no matter how it's labeled. You have to read down into the story for the explanation of the term, "true-life novel."


The Disappearance of Gertrude Beasley

Did they lock her up to shut her up? Beasley's disappearance may be solved but there are questions still to be answered.


Lucrative Racket: Fake Dust Jackets

The dust jacket adds substantially to the value of a collectible book, so naturally there's a brisk trade in reproductions. Nothing wrong with a reproduced jacket marked "facsimile," but many of them aren't.


Digging For Shakespeare

Yep, there's another candidate for the real Shakespeare and some folks want to dig him up.


Stern Lawsuit Moves Forward

A judge has ruled that Howard Stern's lawsuit against the author of a tell-all focusing on Anna Nicole Smith can proceed.


Kerouac's Will Ruled a Forgery

A judge has finally ruled in a long-running case involving the estate of Beat icon Jack Kerouac.


All the Way Hemingway

Very interesting NYT op-ed piece on changes in the new edition of Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, tampered with by grandson who didn't like some things said about his grandma.


The 'Why' of Forgery

Though the examples are from the ancient world, the primary points are valid across time. An excellent overview.


Questions About a Hoax Review

Although the full story hasn't emerged, it looks as though someone pranked the prestigious Modernism/Modernity journal with a book review written by a Don DeLillo character. As to why, the answer may be "to see if it could be done." But we don't know, yet, if that's it.


'Lost' Manuscripts

For some odd reason a number of "lost" -- at least, unpublished -- manuscripts by noted authors have come to light and will be be published.

"Priceless" Ty Cobb Diary a Fake

Following an FBI investigation, the Baseball Hall of Fame has removed a diary supposedly kept by Ty Cobb from the exhibit area. It will now reside in storage in the hall's basement.


Who Wrote Obama's Book?

There's a bit of a fuss in political circles about whether President Obama wrote Dreams of My Father. Generally I don't bother with squabbles over writing by politicians because they rarely write their own stuff so the issue is ridiculous. But I'm not sure about Obama. He might have strong feelings about authenticity. Anyway, here's one interesting analysis in favor of his authorship. If that's too technical, another discussion of the same topic appears here, also favorable to Obama. And here's the guy who started the ruckus by contending that Bill Ayers wrote the book.


Vanity Press for Scholars?

The editor of the publication in question has resigned, according to a Guardian report. This outfit offers to print your research paper in their scholarly journal, for a fee ... and got hoaxed by this prankster who submitted a gibberish paper. My LiteratEye column on the subject can be found at


Salinger Goes to Court

Ron Rosenbaum takes a look at how things stand with reclusive J.D. Salinger, including the lawsuit over use of his Catcher in the Rye characters in a novel by another author.
UPDATE: The new novel's author responds. Meanwhile a judge is holding up release of the book in the U.S. while the case is under study. UPDATE: A very interesting story from a Swedish newspaper. Update: Publication blocked.UPDATE: The appeal.
UPDATE: So long, Salinger...


The Marlowe-Shakespeare Conspiracy

I shy away from most items on the Shakespeare controversy because it's generally so well covered elsewhere but this site is intriguing, very well done, and the unrelated addenda is, to me, quite interesting. I ran across it while looking for a good solid site on Shakespeare as a Sufi poet; haven't found that one yet.


One Less eBay Forger

If you bought from this guy on eBay, your signed first edition is probably signed by him, not by the author. One of many forgers working the "signed first" scam over the Internet, no doubt. And what of victims, do they just take the hit or do they pass it on?


The Druid Forgeries

About three quarters of the way down in this review you'll meet Iolo Morganwg, whose forgeries assisted greatly in creating the Druids as we know them today.


Check It Out: News and Columns

My news articles, tips, and a weekly LiteratEye column appear on Joey Skaggs' artoftheprank web site. You can find the archive here. Take a gander at the home page as well, there's almost always something wild and crazy going on.


Long Lost History of a Legendary Fraud

Here's the inside story on the original Ponzi as detailed in a lost (and, obviously, now found) manuscript.


Big-Hearted Harrison Forged Beatles' Sigs

George Harrison seems to have forged the signatures of his fellow Beatles to grant the wish of a dying youngster. Story indicates that wasn't the only time.


Who You Callin' a Liar?

In the dust-up over inaccuracies and possible fabrications in the memoir of a young African pressed into military service by guerrillas, seems like everyone is calling everyone a liar.

A Plagiarist Stole His Granny

This article is kind of long-winded but the point is interesting, direct plagiarism may be easy to catch if the original appears on the Net, but a clever text doctor can work around that.


Forbidden Lie$

"Did author Norma Khouri con more than half a million readers, publishers and journalists across fifteen countries?" Really great YouTube trailer on this documentary on Norma Khouri's best-selling web of lies.


Murderers, Rapists, Pig Thieves?

A $10-million lawsuit over reporting on blood feuds in the New Guinea highlands.


Bad News, Baseball Fans

A lengthy but quite informative interview on fraud in the baseball autograph field. 


The Boss is a Real Nazi

Business students in India are turning to Adolph Hitler for advice on how to achieve their goals.


Secret Writing

Edgar Allan Poe issued a challenge to readers. Can you solve it? 



Churchill "Wrongly Fired"

A university cannot fire a tenured professor just because he steals the work of others and claims it as his own, categorizes innocent murdered Americans as "Nazis," spouts outrageous bullshit as "history," claims a heritage that isn't his, and that sort of thing. There's no single link I'd recommend for exploring the issue; here's a starting point.

Categorizing Castaneda

This week's LiteratEye column focuses on that man of mystery and mischief, Carlos Castaneda. The column has been described by one critic as "wonderful -- interesting, amusing, thought-provoking." OK, so that "critic" is web site host Joey Skaggs -- check it out at, maybe you'll agree with him.


Telling It Like It Is...Maybe

Here's the way it is in regard to information - anything you see or hear these days -- from a filmmaker who worked with Norma Khouri, the memoirist liar from Jordan (I mean, Chicago) who won hearts and made big bucks with her story of abuse and pursuit by Muslim fanatics. Anna Broinowski, an independent filmmaker, says viewers should leave the theater "not just questioning Norma, but questioning our own judgment, the system that created Norma, and indeed the filmmaker herself. Trust no-one. Think first. Believe nothing you are told..." See the interview.


Pearl S. Buck Plagiarism Exposed

Much credit is due the blogger at this site (Suzan Abrams) for publicizing the plagiarism of some Pearl S. Buck short stories. I haven't dug into it so visit that site for details. Hopefully the story will gather steam.


Education by Proxy; Essays For Sale

There's nothing new about students purchasing essays on line but this in-depth overview traces purchases by U.S. students to the Philippines and thence to the Ukraine...


Cooking the Books

The husband of the author of a heart-wrenching autobiography supposedly written by a 14-year-old boy has now faked services rendered as a psychologist. The deeper you dig into this story the more sordid and strange it becomes. I will have to look into it for a LiteratEye column.


Book Promotion 101

Watching the roller coaster sales figures for Fiona I can empathize with anyone who has written a book and would like a sure-fire method for promoting sales. But snagging a three year sentence in a Bangkok prison? Maybe I'll stick to writing my LiteratEye column and hoping for the best.


Double Your Money?

Fiona has been available on Amazon for about two months ($19.95 plus shipping) and has already popped up on another major bookseller site, AbeBooks in the United Kingdom. I really don't understand how this works but the price there is more than double: $44. plus shipping, and that is U.S. dollars...

Remembering a Master Hoaxer

My LiteratEye column for this week focuses on author Keven McQueen and his profile of a master of the journalistic hoax, Joe Mulhattan. Read it here.

Abe Lincoln, Mystery Writer

This is a new one on me ... Abe Lincoln wrote a short mystery story, found here.


Fake Secret Agent Found Dead

The author of Jihad!, a best-selling book about the "secret war" in Afghanistan, has been found dead in an Antwerp garage, apparently murdered. He had been outed as an imposter and his book exposed as fraudulent. I wrote a column that sums up the case so far, posted on Joey Skaggs' Art of the Prank web site.



If "Aquarius" was the National Anthem of a generation, the prose poem "Desiderata" might be considered its Pledge of Allegiance. "Desiderata" still appears, both commercially as a plaque or poster, and posted on the 'net as someone's favorite words to live by. And the claim is usually attached that it is ancient, or at least quite old, having first appeared at a Baltimore cathedral in 16-something. Actually, "Desiderata" is not only a modern work but it is still under copyright, and those who profit by it may be subject to legal action. The facts of the matter may be found at this urban-legends site.

While we're at it, might as well note that the St. Francis Prayer seems to be also of modern vintage.