5 Accomplished Authors Who Turned Out To Be Hoaxers

I present for your perusal this article from Cracked yesterday.

I have to admit, I’m a little conflicted.

On the one hand, ideally, writers should be honest about who they are. On the other, a good book is a good book, whether it’s a true story or not – and the reverse is also true.

Stories (especially ones purported as fiction in the first place) that suddenly go from best book this decade to most horrible trash ever written reveal more about readers’ bias than about their fraudulent authors. The identity of the author shouldn’t change what you think of their actual prose.

I’m reminded of the tragically short life of Thomas Chatterton. It was only after his suicide that those who had shamed him for being a hoaxer recognised that he was an immensely talented writer, who probably shouldn’t have told all those fibs about exactly where his manuscripts were coming from. (Spoiler: himself.)

640px-Henry_Wallis_-_Chatterton_-_Google_Art_Project

The Death of Chatterton, 1856. Oil Painting by Henry Wallis.

Am I even close, here?

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2 thoughts on “5 Accomplished Authors Who Turned Out To Be Hoaxers

  1. I thought they’d be sure to mention Alex Haley’s Roots: The Saga of an American Family. I was about 13 when the miniseries aired and I was entirely gripped.
    I didn’t know at the time it was claimed to have been based on fact and neither did I care. It had enough detail of the times to be entirely authentic, with action and human interest in every episode which at the time I believed was essentially fiction.
    Later I believed that Alex Haley had been debunked as entirely and cynically fabricating his family genealogy—still didn’t care.
    I’ve just read up on his research and think it more likely that he was fooled into believing the oral history (some deliberately fabricated for his visit) over the written facts, which, as any genealogist knows is the way of madness. Still don’t care.
    I’m inclined to re-watch the miniseries and go buy the book just because it’s a great story, well told.

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  2. Reblogged this on Nigel Edwards and commented:
    Interesting. I think I agree that it shouldn’t matter who the writer is, as long as their work ‘works’, i.e. appeals to their readership. On the other hand, I’m not sure I like the idea of someone writing stories based on or in the style of the original thinking of others. It might be clever and skilful, but it grates with me. Ian Fleming’s James Bond books are a case in point. Since his death, Faulks, Deaver and Boyd, Kingsley Amis and John Gardner have all increased the coffers of the Fleming estate (as well as their own bank accounts). And I’ve no doubt their efforts were excellent, and certainly people like Amis and Gardner are good enough writers in themselves. I know we all stand on the shoulders of giants but… it just grates with me, is all.

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