A Family Tree of Literary Fakers





When the news emerged this week that Margaret Seltzer had fabricated her gang memoir, “Love and Consequences,” under the pseudonym Margaret B. Jones, many in the publishing industry and beyond thought: Here we go again.

The most immediate examples that came to mind were, of course, James Frey, the author of the best-selling “Million Little Pieces,” in which he embellished details of his experiences as a drug addict, and J T LeRoy, the novelist thought to be a young West Virginia male prostitute who was actually the fictive alter ego of Laura Albert, a woman now living in San Francisco.

But the history of literary fakers stretches far, far back, at least to the 19th century, when a slave narrative published in 1863 by Archy Moore was revealed as a novel written by a white historian, Richard Hildreth, and into the early 20th, when Joan Lowell wrote a popular autobiography, “Cradle of the Deep,” about her colorful childhood aboard a four-masted ship sailing the South Seas; in fact, she had grown up almost entirely in Berkeley, Calif.

Here follows a lineup of some of the past few decades’ most notorious fakes, with proof that in some cases, there are second acts in American lives....


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