O.J. Simpson dreamed up the idea for “If I Did It” and actively collaborated on the aborted book, including a hypothetical account of his ex-wife’s murder, his ghost writer said in disputing Simpson on how the book was created.
Pablo Fenjves, whose role as ghost author has emerged since the book was pulled from publication last year, contradicted Simpson’s characterization of himself this week as a reluctant, mostly passive participant in crafting a key chapter that pictures Simpson holding a bloody knife at the crime scene.
“O.J. read the book, his book, several times. I made every change he asked for, and he signed off on it,” Fenjves, a Hollywood screenwriter told Reuters on Thursday.
“The whole book, the whole idea for a book, originated with O.J. Simpson and a couple of his handlers,” he said.
Simpson was acquitted in 1995 of criminal charges of murdering ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman but was found liable for their deaths in a civil trial two years later. The former football star has sought to distance himself from the book project in recent months.
The book was to have been published late year by ReganBooks, a HarperCollins imprint owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. It was scrapped at the last minute amid public outrage at what was seen as commercial exploitation of a grisly murder.
Rights to the book passed to Goldman’s relatives on Monday, after a long legal fight. Their lawyers say they plan to seek new publishing, film or TV deals to help satisfy a $33.5 million judgment they won against Simpson in the civil trial.
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Fenjves, as a neighbor of Nicole Brown Simpson, testified for the prosecution during Simpson’s murder trial that he heard a dog’s “plaintive wail” the night of the killings. He was reportedly was paid $100,000 up front for his work on the book
Fenjves said he spent weeks with Simpson, interviewing him in person and by phone, writing a rough draft, letting Simpson read the manuscript, make revisions and repeating the process.
Fenjves added, “And I told O.J., as I have told a dozen-plus other people I’ve ghost-written books for, ‘Nobody sees this book until you’re happy with it.’ And that’s exactly what happened.”
In a rare Internet interview streamed live on Tuesday over the Web site Market News First, Simpson said publishers at HarperCollins approached him about doing a book and that he said yes because he needed the money, believing it would never actually materialize.
Simpson said he reluctantly consented to a chapter about the night of the crime as told by him only after publishers agreed to label it as hypothetical, and that he refused to participate in composing it “because I didn’t do it.”
He said he found the chapter riddled with “major holes” and “all these impossible things” but declined to correct them for fear that making it too accurate would be taken by some as an indication of guilt.
“I find it completely unnecessary to defend myself against this man,” Fenjves said when pressed about Simpson’s comments. “All I can say is if there are errors in the book, it’s because O.J. didn’t correct them, or worse, he fed them to me. But that’s fine, too. It’s his book. Self-delusion is a wonderful thing.”