So you've got an idea for a novel. Big deal, right? Thousands of those are published every year and most collect dust on the shelves. How can you call attention to yours?
Hey, why not claim all the stuff in the book actually happened to you? Instead of a ridiculous product of your deranged imagination, it's an inspiring true story!
Be careful, though, because apparently that plan can blow up in your face.
5A Million Little Pieces
In 2003, author James Frey published a "memoir" about his life as a total unrepentant addict, alcoholic, criminal and all-around bad-ass motherfucker. So bad-ass, in fact, he has a tattoo on his forearm that says "FTBSITTTD," which allegedly stands for "Fuck The Bullshit, It's Time To Throw Down."
His book describes one fucked up incident after another. How he'd been arrested 11 times before he reached the age of 19. How he was investigated by the FBI for his massive drug-running empire but was never caught. How, drunk and high on crack, he nearly ran down a cop in Ohio. Then he took on said cop's backup, almost won and, instead, wound up in the slammer.
In reality, of course, Jimmy Frey never did any of those things. Oh, there's a microscopic grain of truth to some of it. He did not run down a cop, but he did blatantly park illegally near one, was busted for driving under the influence and having an open beer in the car with him, and spent about five whole hours in jail before a buddy ponied up a few hundred dollars in bail.
The cop he "almost ran down" did call for back up, but that was because he was a foot patrolman and didn't have a car to transport the reportedly "polite and cooperative" Mr. Frey to the Big House. You can guess how much truth there was in his claim to being a Tony Montana-esque drug kingpin.
Now, normally, this level of horseshit is reserved for the dumb fucker you meet in a bar who turns his routine traffic stop into the finale of Bonnie and Clyde. You know it's crap, but you play along because either A) The story is at least entertaining; B) The guy's so hammered you're bound to get into a "Oh yeah? YOU CALLIN' ME A LIAR, MOTHERFUCKER?" confrontation; or C) You just don't care enough to call the dude on his bullshit.
But what makes Mr. Frey's deceit so monumental is that he spun it into a best-selling novel and managed to con the famously gullible Oprah Winfrey. When Oprah slapped her "Book Club" sticker on this pile of bullshit wrapped in a hardcover and dustjacket, it spent weeks and weeks on The New York Times bestseller list.
The Smoking Gun found that not only were his stories of drug running and cop smooshing bullshit, but that he had inexplicably written himself into the tragic auto vs. locomotive death of three teens in his hometown of St. Joseph, Michigan.
Oprah, Valkyrie of wounded dignity that she was, brought Frey and his publisher back onto her show. She reduced Frey to a stammering six-year-old caught with his hand in the cookie jar and forced his publisher to admit that she never really got around to checking the veracity of Frey's claims 'cause, you know, he seemed so trustworthy. For an admitted drunk, junkie and criminal, that is.