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Famous Like Me > Writer > I > Clifford Irving

Profile of Clifford Irving on Famous Like Me

Name: Clifford Irving  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 5th November 1930
Place of Birth: New York, New York, USA
Profession: Writer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia

Clifford Irving (born November 5, 1930) is a US writer famous for his "authorized autobiography" of Howard Hughes. It turned out to be a hoax.

Previous life

Clifford Michael Irving was the son of Jay and Dorothy Irving of New York. In 1947 he graduated from the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan. He enrolled in Cornell University, had a two-year marriage, and worked on his first novel, On A Darkling Plain which was published 1956. This and his second novel were not financially successful but received excellent reviews.

In 1962 Irving moved to Ibiza with his latest wife, Fay Brooke. In 1967 he married a Swiss artist, Edith Sommer, and they had two sons. He was also acquainted with art forger Elmyr de Hory and wrote his biography.

Hughes' autobiography

After 1958, Howard Hughes had become a recluse who hated any kind of public scrutiny. Whenever he found out that someone was writing an unauthorized biography about him, he bought the writer off. By the 1960s he even refused to appear in court. According to various rumors, he was either terminally ill, mentally unstable, or even dead and replaced by an impersonator.

In 1970, in Spain, Irving met with an author, Richard Suskind, and created the scheme to write Hughes' "autobiography". Irving and Suskind believed that because Hughes had completely withdrawn from public life, he would never go public to denounce the book. Suskind would do most of the necessary research in news archives. Irving started by writing letters in which he imitated Hughes' handwriting, which he had seen in letters displayed in Newsweek magazine.

Irving contacted his publisher, McGraw-Hill. Irving claimed that he had corresponded with Hughes because of his book about Elmyr de Hory and that Hughes had expressed interest in letting him write his autobiography. The McGraw-Hill board invited him to New York where he showed them three forged letters, one of which claimed that Hughes wished to have his biography written but that he wanted that the project to remain secret for the time being. The autobiography would be based on interviews Hughes was willing to do with Irving.

McGraw-Hill agreed to the terms and wrote up contracts between Hughes, Irving and the company; Irving forged Hughes' signatures. McGraw-Hill paid an advance of $100,000, with an additional $400,000 that would go to Hughes. Irving later bargained the sum up to $765,000, with $100,000 going to Irving and the rest to Hughes. McGraw-Hill paid by cheque, which Irving had his wife deposit to a Swiss bank account.

Irving and Suskind researched all the available information about Hughes. Irving also created faked interviews supposedly made all over the world, due to Hughes' penchant for meeting in secluded places, which did fit with his contemporary image. One of them supposedly happened on a Mexican pyramid. Actually, Irving was meeting his various mistresses in the stated places.

Irving and Suskind also gained access to the private files of Time-Life, as well as a manuscript by James Phelan, who was ghostwriting memoirs of Noah Dietrich, former business manager to Hughes. Mutual acquaintance Stanley Meyer showed Irving a copy of the manuscript - without Phelan's consent - in the hope that he would be willing to rewrite it in a more publishable format. Irving made a copy of it for his own purposes.

In the early winter of 1971 Irving delivered the manuscript to McGraw-Hill. He also included notes in Hughes' forged handwriting that a graphologist declared genuine. Hughes experts were also convinced. McGraw-Hill announced their intention to publish the book in March 1972.

Several representatives of Hughes' companies and other people who had known him expressed their suspicions. Irving stated that Hughes had not told them about the book. Journalist Frank McCulloch, who had interviewed Hughes for the last time years before, received an angry call from someone claiming to be Howard Hughes. But he read the Irving manuscript and declared that it was indeed accurate.

McGraw-Hill and Life magazine, which had paid to publish excerpts of the book, continued to support Irving. Osborn Associates, a firm of handwriting experts, declared the writing samples were authentic. Irving had to submit to a lie-detector test. For weeks there was no sign of Hughes.

On January 7, 1972 Hughes finally contacted the outside world. He arranged a telephone conference with seven journalists that had known him years before. It took place two days later and was televised. Hughes denounced Irving, said that he had never even met him, and said that he was still living in the Bahamas. Irving claimed that the voice was probably a fake.

Hughes' lawyer, Chester Davis, filed suit against McGraw-Hill, Life, Clifford Irving and Dell Publishing Company. Swiss authorities investigated a bank account in the name of "H. R. Hughes", which had received $750,000. Edith Irving had opened it with the name "Helga R. Hughes". When Swiss police visited the Irvings on Ibiza, they denied everything, although Clifford Irving tried to hint that he might have been dealing with an impostor. Then James Phelan read an excerpt of the book and realized that a few of the facts had been taken from his book. Finally the Swiss bank identified Edith Irving as the depositor of the funds, and the jig was up.

Eventually the Irvings gave up and confessed on January 28, 1972. They and Richard Suskind were indicted for fraud and appeared in court March 13 and were found guilty June 16. Despite the efforts of Irving's lawyer, James E. Sharp, Irving was convicted and spent 17 months in federal prison, where he stopped smoking and learned to lift weights. He voluntarily returned the $765,000 advance to his publishers. Suskind was sentenced to six months and served five.

After his release, Clifford Irving has continued to write many book, including half a dozen critically-acclaimed best sellers. The fraudulent autobiography was published on the Internet in 1999 and a movie is currently being made (2005), directed by Lasse Hallstrom and starring Richard Gere as Clifford Irving, very loosely based on the events of the hoax. Irving has said, "I had nothing to do with this movie and it had very little to do with me."

Books of Clifford Irving

  • On A Darkling Plain (1956)
  • The Losers (1958)
  • The Valley (1960)
  • The 38th Floor (1965)
  • The Battle of Jerusalem (1967)
  • Spy (1968)
  • Fake! The Story of Elmyr de Hory, the Greatest Art Forger of Our Time (1969)
  • Autobiography of Howard Hughes (1971)
  • The Hoax (1972)
  • The Death Freak (1976)
  • The Sleeping Spy (1979)
  • Tom Mix and Pancho Villa (1981)
  • The Angel of Zin (1983)
  • Daddy's Girl (1985)
  • Trial (1987)
  • Final Argument (1990)
  • The Spring (1995)

Books about Hughes autobiography affair

  • Stephen Fay, Lewis Chester & Magnus Linklater - Hoax: The Inside Story of the Howard Hughes-Clifford Irving Affair (1972)
  • Clifford Irving- Hoax! (1981)

External link

  • on the affair
  • 1984, 1988, 1990 audio interviews with Clifford Irving by Don Swaim of CBS Radio, RealAudio

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Clifford Irving