Saturday, March 08, 2008

Lying Authors and their Tales of Woe

Another author has been outed as a liar. Margaret Seltzer is the latest author to pass off fiction as a memoir. In the language of the ‘hood she professed to have lived, her own sister “dropped a dime on her” (translation, her sister told). Seltzer’s book “Love and Consequences” was supposedly a memoir detailing her violent and drug running childhood in South Central. Writing as Margaret B. Jones the critically acclaimed novel enjoyed a week as a literary darling before the lies were exposed.

Seltzer/Jones now joins James Frey and Stephen Glass in the growing list of writers who lie their way to fame. Lying authors make it harder to gain the reading public’s trust. The internet and “reality” TV have already taught us to be leery of what is spun as truth but there was a time you could trust a memoir to be true.

Seltzer’s story is both tragic and laughable. A news reporter checked one part of Seltzer’s story, her college education, in 5 minutes, something her publisher never bothered to do. Uncovering the lie before publishing certainly would have raised red flags and prevented the now humiliating venture.

Other clues were obvious. To begin with, “South Central” is a media term. No one who actually knows Watts, Compton, Inglewood or LA actually uses the misnomer. Insiders also would have never fallen for her half white / half Native American drug runner for the bloods. I am from Southern California and know these neighborhoods well including Seltzer's real hood - The Valley! But I digress….

What really bugs me is why authors feel the need to pass off fiction as fact? Why not just write a good story and call it what it is – fiction? Readers do still love a good story, don’t they? In fiction, you have the freedom to pull in bits and pieces of reality and twist and shape them into a good tale.

Thanks to Seltzer and others the book public has once again been duped, and the writing community stung by the shame they bring to the profession. May their pens melt at the touch!


Photo: © John Weise |

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