Nonfiction fakes raise a reel conundrum
In recent years, the New York publishing world has been rife with prose and cons.
Margaret B. Jones (aka Peggy Seltzer) is the latest memoirist to be outed for fabricating an identity — joining a club of literary liars that includes Laura Albert (the artist formerly known as J.T. LeRoy).
Jody Hotchkiss of Hotchkiss and Associates, who was repping film rights for “Love and Consequences,” says there were no offers at the time Jones was fingered as a fraud for claiming in her book to be a mixed-race girl raised by a black foster mother in crime-riddled South Central Los Angeles. Nevertheless, Hotchkiss says the tome likely would have found a suitor, because the fawning coverage and extraordinary backstory were “the kind of thing that makes Hollywood salivate.”
And even though the book was recalled by publisher Riverhead on March 3, just days after hitting bookshelves, Hotchkiss believes there still could be a bigscreen story to be told, a la “Shattered Glass” or “The Hoax.”
“Putting aside the label of fiction or non-fiction, there is a unique story in the book that exists now,” says Hotchkiss, who continues to represent the material. “The story behind the story is in some ways more interesting than what came before. If someone wanted to make that movie, they will want to have access to the purported story that exists only in the book.”
On the other hand, all the lit attention over James Frey’s admitted enhancement of “facts” in “A Million Little Pieces” seems to have stalled that onetime pic project.
And the 2004 film based on LeRoy’s stories, “The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things,” was barely a blip at the box office, failing to capitalize on the press coverage about the elaborate deception.
Besides, Hotchkiss notes that Seltzer/Jones might not want any more exposure, and Riverhead may not be inclined to cooperate with a film project.
Jones might still have a future in Hollywood — who wouldn’t want to exploit that fantastic imagination? But then again, the disgraced author might have drawn inspiration from showbiz in the first place.
In the New York Times, civil rights advocate Constance L. Rice speculated about where Jones came up with her material. One possibility: TV.
“She’s been watching too much of ‘The Shield,’ ” Rice said.