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Publisher drops James Frey in wake of scandal

Author had been under contract to write two books for Riverhead Books
/ Source: Reuters

James Frey, who admitted last month he made up much of his best-selling memoir “A Million Little Pieces,” has been dropped by his publisher, Riverhead Books, Frey’s representative said Thursday.

Frey’s unmasking and public confession to Oprah Winfrey, the daytime television host whose endorsement catapulted the drug-rehab memoir to the top of the bestsellers list, has rocked the U.S. publishing industry, stirring debate about the nature of memoirs and the importance of accuracy.

After writing “A Million Little Pieces” for Random House, Frey moved with his editor Sean McDonald to Penguin imprint Riverhead Books, which published his second book, “My Friend Leonard,” last June. Riverhead then contracted Frey to write two more books, one of them a novel, for an undisclosed sum.

Penguin said last month that deal was “under discussion” and Frey’s representative, Lisa Kussell, said Thursday the deal had been canceled.

“All I can say is he no longer has a deal with them,” Kussell said, declining to give any more details.

Penguin spokesman David Zimmer declined to comment.

The uproar over Frey’s book started when the Smoking Gun Web site said it could find no public records supporting the author’s claim he had spent three months in jail after trying to run over a police officer with his car.

Frey’s book sold more than 1.77 million copies last year after being chosen by Winfrey for her Book Club.

On another appearance on Winfrey’s show last month, Frey admitted that much of the book was fiction. He spent two hours in jail, not 87 days, and an account of his breaking up with a woman who later committed suicide was condensed in time and changed, he said.

The Los Angeles Times reported last month that Warner Brothers was reconsidering plans to make a movie version of “A Million Little Pieces.”

Despite the controversy Frey’s sales remain strong.

“A Million Little Pieces” was in the No. 2 spot on The New York Times’ latest paperback non-fiction bestseller list, just behind Elie Wiesel’s “Night,” which is Winfrey’s latest Book Club recommendation. “My Friend Leonard” was in fifth place on the hardcover non-fiction list.