Another day, another faux memoir. In Love and Consequences, Margaret Seltzer (writing as Margaret Jones) describes her life growing up half-white, half-Native American foster child in gang-infested South Central Los Angeles, running drugs for the Bloods. Too bad none of that is true.
What's a little eery is that the book was released by Riverhead, who published James Frey's second book, My Friend Leonard, and they employ the editor who originally bought A Million Little Pieces. So the next question is... how can this keep happening again and again?
First, let me point out the obvious - people have been exaggerating and fictionalizing true events and personal histories since the beginning of the written word. The only difference is that there are now tools available today to research and verify what was previously taken at face value as true.
So why doesn't the agent or publisher? Well, in the agent's case, we simply don't have the time and resources to check every detail of every book we represent. As I'm sure you've gathered by now from reading my blog, an agent's duties are varied and plentiful, and investigative journalist is just not in the job description.
So what about the editor and publisher? Well, the editor certainly doesn't have the time either to investigate fully each and every nonfiction title they edit. In fact, doing this would have to be a full time job - which is why it's journalists who are breaking the news.
So it appears to me that the only other option available is for the publisher to hire in-house or freelance investigators. Ignoring for now how this changes completely the philosophical and emotional relationship between author and publisher, it would cause havoc on the financial template of publishing, a template that already suffers.
As a result, it seems to me that the problem needs to be fixed on the writer end of things - i.e. stop lying and start calling your memoir a novel.