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The Biggest Book Hoaxes of All Time

Greg Mortenson of 'Three Cups of Tea,' James Frey of 'A Million Little Pieces,' and four more authors accused of pulling the wool over readers' eyes

Greg Mortenson, coauthor of the feel-good Three Cups of Tea, has recently come under fire over accusations — first raised by an April 17 episode of 60 Minutes — that he falsified key portions of his 2006 best-seller. Of course, this isn't the first time an author has been accused of pulling the wool over readers' eyes. Here's a quick primer on the most scandalous literary hoaxes of years past.

Three Cups of Tea
The veracity of Mortenson's 2006 memoir-slash-call to arms has fallen under suspicion, particularly passages about finding the Korphe village and being captured by the Taliban. His charity is also under investigation for possible misuse of funds.

A Million Little Pieces
James Frey discovered that Oprah Winfrey's car-giving benevolence has a flip side when she tore him a new one for lying in his 2003 memoir, which she picked for her book club. But he'll return to O's couch in May for hatchet burying.

All novels by JT LeRoy
The talented young author who channeled a history of prostitution and drug abuse in his novels turned out not to exist. In 2006, seven years after ''his'' first novel, LeRoy was revealed to be the nom de BS of 40-year-old writer Laura Albert.

A Rock and a Hard Place
Anthony Godby Johnson, the purported author of this 1993 memoir, is likely as nonexistent as LeRoy. The tale of rape, abuse, and AIDS is believed to be fabricated, and most think it was penned by the boy's adoptive mother.

Autobiography of Howard Hughes
Clifford Irving went as far as forging handwritten letters to support an autobiography he claimed was by the reclusive billionaire germaphobe. Richard Gere played Irving in the 2007 film The Hoax.

Go Ask Alice
The problem with this 1971 ''diary'' is that there is no Alice to ask. The anonymous account of teenage drug use has been listed as fiction ever since its authenticity was challenged. Some believe the real author is therapist Beatrice Sparks, the book's supposed editor.

Originally posted Apr 29, 2011 Published in issue #1153 May 06, 2011 Order article reprints
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