Thursday, 21 February 2013

Books: The Hoax by Clifford Irving

The Hoax: An engrossing read which gathers momentum as the hoax develops.

The Hoax by Clifford Irving
The Hoax tells the true story of Clifford Irving, a writer who one day came up with the ambitious idea of writing the authorised biography of Howard Hughes, an eccentric and reclusive American billionaire.  The only problem was that Clifford had never even met Howard and so he and his co-conspirator, Richard Suskind, set about concocting a scam whereby they would write a fictional biography and then attempt to convince McGraw-Hill Publishing House this biography was the real deal.

To convince McGraw-Hill, Clifford originally wrote up three fake letters allegedly from Howard Hughes explaining that Hughes wanted Clifford to write his official biography in order to tell the world the truth about some of the media misconceptions about him.  From there on in the hoax quickly developed until in very little time at all Clifford Irving and Richard Suskind had been given the go ahead and were researching the information they would need to create their ‘autobiography’.

In the very early stages of the hoax it becomes apparent that Clifford is out of his depth and doesn’t really know the ‘dos’ and don’ts’ to follow when you’re trying to trick someone.  In fact on a couple of occasions it’s only really a mixture of luck and the fact that McGraw-Hill desperately wanted it to be true that allowed him to avoid getting found out, but as the scam progresses so Clifford’s deceptive side develops and he gradually begins to become more accomplished in the art of illusion.

He also has a lot of luck along the way such as being asked by Stanley Meyer, an old Hollywood associate, to take a look at a ‘tell-all’ book written by Noah Dietrich, the former right-hand man of Howard Hughes, with a view to Clifford signing on as a ghost writer for the book.  Of course Clifford instead simply copied the book and turned Meyer down, then used the material for his own autobiography. homepageThe first half of The Hoax focuses largely on the research that Clifford and Richard carried out into Howard Hughes’ life, and also recalls where some of their fabricated ideas for inclusion in the book originally came from.  This is all reasonably interesting reading but it’s not until later in the book when unforeseen twists in their plan start to occur and their scheme starts to unravel that the story really comes alive.  It’s once the biography is almost ready and McGraw-Hill announce its release that the action really heats up, and yet with every new problem that occurs Clifford just comes up with an increasingly wild and creative counter-story to attempt to explain away these twists which threaten to potentially expose the hoax.

One of the tools he uses to successful effect is the art of distraction.  Whenever a development occurs which looks like it might pull the rug from under his feet he simply creates an unexpected twist of his own, usually in the form of problems from the unpredictable fictitious Howard Hughes he has created, and as a result his publishers become so embroiled in solving these new problems that they lose focus from their original questions which could potentially have revealed the whole thing as a hoax.  Ultimately though, the weight of evidence finally becomes too great and Clifford’s scheme eventually becomes exposed.

I’m usually not a fan of ‘crime’ books as in my opinion the best stories are those which have a likeable main character and I don’t find criminals likeable.  However, Clifford points out in the book that he never saw it as a crime, just a hoax.  He never spent the money so it was always there to repay to McGraw-Hill in the event that he got found out, so it’s clear that in his head he regarded it as a victimless crime.

Kobo (UK)One point that needs to be raised though is the question that given that Clifford attempted to pass off a work of fiction as an official autobiography, how can we be sure that The Hoax isn’t also a pack of lies?  This is a question which Clifford himself pre-empts and attempts to answer by pointing out that the Chief Attorney of New York promised him that if any parts of the book were false and contradicted his sworn testimony then he would risk an additional five years in jail for perjury.

Of course the response to this is that writing Howard Hughes' fake biography in the first place put Clifford at risk of going to jail and that didn’t seem to worry him on that occasion, but nevertheless, for what it’s worth the impression I got from reading The Hoax was that in all likelihood it’s most probably an accurate reflection of events and if any minor events have been changed at all then I suspect it was only to protect his friends.

For the most part, the Clifford Irving that wrote The Hoax doesn’t come across as someone attempting to rewrite history or hide his actions.  He uses flowery language on a couple of occasions to try to justify his poor behaviour towards his wife, but he never tries to hide his actions from the reader.  Overall, this gives the book the believability it needs to make it an enjoyable read.

In summary, The Hoax provides a fascinating and absorbing account of the story of Howard Hughes’ fake autobiography.  The parts of the book dealing with the research, although obviously necessary, are the least interesting sections, and it’s once these are out of the way and the publication date approaches that the book really starts to grab you.  Although you ultimately know how it all ends (if Clifford had got away with it then it’s unlikely that he would then have gone on to record his actions in a book!), it’s nevertheless fascinating to discover how the original idea developed and then eventually unravelled as the weight of evidence gradually became too great to deny any longer.

The Hoax has since been turned into a movie starring Richard Gere but the big screen version is merely inspired by the book and has been adapted by the producers and screenwriter into their own version of events, rather than being an accurate record of how things actually happened.  If you therefore want to discover the original story as told by Clifford Irving then the written version The Hoax is definitely well worth a look.  It’s a book which will draw you in as the scam develops and a story which gathers steam and momentum as it heads towards the numerous twists of its conclusion.

Clifford Irving has his own website:

Follow Clifford Irving on facebook and twitter:
Facebook: Author Clifford Irving
Twitter: @Clifford_Irving

Worthy Of A Bigger Audience is also on twitter:

Other recommended books on Worthy Of A Bigger Audience:
Books on 'Worthy Of A Bigger Audience'

Other recent posts:
Graphic Novel: Cuba: My Revolution
Music: Strange Weekend by Porcelain Raft
TV: Red Dwarf X

Please note, all promotional images used on this blog remain the copyright of the respective artists/publishers and are used in accordance with 'Fair Use' legislation for review purposes.


  1. Double life of boxes of Howard Hughes Story .
    Howard hughes used Doubles?Vance Cooper -Brook Randle.
    howard Hughes record of being estranged from wife & Friends.
    Howard Hughes want new Identity.Hughes was given name of _ _ _
    guy name -Vern Nicely.-Nicoley -picture of Nick in
    coverall -Helmit no gloves and in a rose garden - look camera.
    With a full growth beard hang chin.Eva met Nov 1969 Nick Panama.
    Howard Huges aircraft base.Eva -Nick moved Arizona.Then moved to Alabama.bought 20 acres grew plants.Nick loved Gadgets he bought.
    He wouldnt open them kept them in the same containers.He kept all stuff in storage trailer.First Eva kept everything.later she said Nick's stuff stolen.In the storage trailers - even the Sinks and the plumbing. Woman visit her -later came talk into moveFlorida -mysterious lady,
    Eva feels she may stole stuff.Nick wouldn't let people around.Nick didn't hear things correctly or he would think she said this or that
    -then Nick would pick arguments with her,Nick would fly off handle.(angry)Eva pack up so she wouldn't loose her mind. then come back.
    Eva separated from Nick -thenNick disappear -then sighting of
    Howard hughes -then come back.cindy mother 16 yr got pregnant
    live across street Hughes co .Cindy supposedly daughter of
    Howard Hughes - ask for help -then claim people she ask for help-
    Kept her files and documentations.Nick told Eva that Lbj was involved.
    Nick was conern for Dee Dee.Nick would tell DeeDee to leave.
    When people came to visit Nick.Nick kept hands hidden -didnt shake hands.Eva Said Nick went around Helmet wore rubber gloves when he out in garden.but in the picture Nick has no rubber gloves on he is look at someone &probarbly Eva ? Eva took picture of Helicopter that came to their farm.Nick had a germ phobia & Nick was hard of hearing & sight problems.Eva did not say Nick good Kisser he was good lover & the reasonafter arguments she kept come back,what was Reason for that -they both didn't have no children together -what was cement bonding that keptthem come back to each other?Eva said Nick her vacation in Florida.Howard Hughes & nick had eye for ladies.
    reveal secrets that prove Howard Hughes assumed another identity and sought refuge in the woods of Alabama for 25 years after his presumed death in 1976,” he said. And, during those years, Howard Hughes lived life as Nick Nicely, the husband of Eva McLelland. They had married in Panama in 1970..Then Story Robert Maheu ,casino loose money -fire Maheu - then have Sam Giancana /Johnny Roselli.
    Jack Dragna ,Bob McDonald ,son John McDonald.Hughes Mob -
    Infamous john mother b/f Nick Moretta and Archie McDonald..
    John McDonald get money cause Hughes owe money to his dad.
    And Cindy Davis Hughes did not get any money -why is that ?

  2. Is this a Hoax or a fabricated Story :
    Dummar's story always did seem like something Hollywood dreamed up. He claims that while driving through rural Nevada one night in December of 1968, he pulled onto a dirt road to answer the call of nature.He says he found a scraggly, bearded man lying injured in the desert. Dummar drove the stranger to Las Vegas and did not believe it when the man claimed to be Howard Hughes.He got cheat off part in the will ?Think & read & analyze?
    is this Howard Hughes or Verner Nik Nicely?
    Howard Hughes Dec241905 TX,april 51976.Tx.
    Howard Hughes aka Verner Nic Nicely.
    if he is in panama -he is 64 years old.(abt1905)
    He is a Maintance man Panama Canal Zone.
    Eva McLelland -She is 54 years old.(abt1915)
    Eva Cambell McLelland married Nik Verner Nicely.
    1970.Moved Arizonia,Florida,Alabama Etc?
    1988 - 2001 Goshen Alabama.Did Eva use Kleenix did Sterilze prepare food private manner?
    Being eccentric Strange germphobic does it make Howard Hughes the billionaire or wannabee? -this shows that Eva L Campbell McLelland did not go by Nicely.Her Credit cards went by the name McLelland but not Nicely.For a woman she sure did have a lot of credit cards ?Makes you wonder if she had a large credit card debt at end?Eva L McLelland maiden Campbell dob: 4-5-1916 Floridad o d : November 15,2009 Jacksonville Duval Co Florida.Burial : Troy Pike County ,Alabama , U S A."Private " Verner D. Nicely - Eva Renee Campbell.Marriage certificate attached Verner Dale Nicely (1921)Verner " Nik" Nicely ,lived Goshen Alabama area.from 1988 - 1999 attached : Verner Dale Nicely (1921)Census 1930 : Verner D .Nicely Birth:abt 1922 .Residence :( township/city)Warren ,Ohio.Usa.

    William Gardner Hughes,Joshua W Hughes.
    Howard Hughes ,Rupert Hughes,Felix Hughes.
    Allene Gano Hughes,Annette Gano Lummis;
    Felix was born on Nov. 10, 1837, in Milstadt, Ill., and married Jean Summerlin on Aug. 1, 1865, in Memphis, . He died Oct. 19, 1926, in Los Angeles, Calif.Howard Sr. was born Sept. 9, 1869, in Lancaster, Mo., and married Allene Gano in Dallas, Texas, (parents)Judge William Gano Birth:Feb. 20, 1854BourbonCoKentucky, USADeathJul. 25, 1913ChicagoCook Co IL buried dallas.Parents:Richard Montgomery Gano (1830 - 1913)Martha "Mattie" J. Welch Gano (1832 - 1895)Spouse:Jeannette De Lafayette Gano (1857 - 1905) Hughes own land
    all over u.s.a. Howard Hughes Own Cabin/Land LakeTahoe.Hughes own Casino Las Vegas.
    Hughes Dated June Lange aka Johnny Roselli ex wife ? Robert Maheu Miami Beach deal with Johnny Roselli & Sam Giancana (Trafficante)?
    Hughes Robert Maheu gave campaigne money to Richard Nixon ? Bagman Beebe had safedeposit box ? Howard Hughes Tool & Oil Fields & Hughes Aircraft Co & Hughes movie Studios etc? Can this all coincidence?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...