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Bibliomaniacs' Corner
by Martin Davies

Clifford Irving

FAKE! (1969)

What Really Happened: His Untold Story of the Hughes Affair (1972)

The Autobiography of Howard Hughes (1975/1999)

The following entry was originally published in Catalan in Volume 7 (2003) of the Enciclopèdia d'Eivissa i Formentera (1995), an ongoing project managed by the Cultural Department of the Consell d'Eivissa i Formentera, which has to date published 2,800 densely-packed pages on local matters as far as the word 'Lleny'. Because of reawakened interest in both Howard Hughes and Clifford Irving following the release of The Aviator, our LiveIbiza editor requested the original version of this entry, presented here in English for the first time. Martin Davies, March 2005

(New York, Born 1930) Author of eleven novels (mainly thrillers) and seven works of non-fiction, Clifford Irving is perhaps best known as one of the most accomplished literary forgers of recent times. The play between word and image found in his two famous biographies might be traced back to the work of his illustrator father Jay Irving (born Irving Joel Rafsky), whose syndicated newspaper strip was based on an artless New York policeman called 'Pottsy'. Clifford's grandfather was a Manhattan policeman, and the family's West Side apartment contained a wealth of police memorabilia and crime clippings. Upon graduating from the city's High School of Music and Art in 1947, Irving enrolled at Cornell University, where his interest in literature was combined with an active social life. President of his fraternity, he was deeply influenced by Hemingway, and after graduating with honours in English (1951), he spent much of the following decade travelling and experimenting with different lifestyles. His first two novels - On a Darkling Plain (1956; in paperback The Quick and the Loving, 1957) and The Losers (1957) - were partly written on Ibiza, which Irving visited several times between 1953-58, and where he met and married his second wife, Englishwoman Claire Lydon in 1958. The couple moved shortly after to California, where Lydon died in a car accident. Irving then toured the United States and Mexico, working at various jobs and pursuing his literary interests briefly with the 'beat' movement in California. In 1961 he began his ten-year association with McGraw-Hill with the publication of a third novel, The Valley. The main protagonists of this story, a ruthless New Mexican tycoon and his son, appear to presage the real-life story of the Texan billionaire of his later hoax autobiography - the work which brought Irving's four-book contract to a dramatic conclusion. In 1962 Irving returned to Ibiza (where he remained until 1972) with his third wife, London model Fay Brooke, fitting comfortably into the island's social and artistic scene, which now included Danish folk-singer Nina Van Pallandt as well as the German abstract painter Edith Sommer. Irving and his third wife were divorced in 1965, and he married Edith Sommer in 1967. It was while living in Sommer's Ibicenco farmhouse on the San José road between 1967 and 1971, that Irving wrote his two most famous books. In the spring of 1967, after hearing the confession of close friend and fellow-resident Elmyr de Hory, Irving began work on his first work of non-fiction. This biography of the Hungarian painter and forger, entitled Fake! (1969) was a resounding succès de scandale (de Hory himself spent two months in Ibiza's jail in 1968), inspiring François Reichenbach to make a television documentary, which in turn became the germ of Orson Welles' experimental feature film, F for Fake (1973). Welles' cinematic exploration of what constitutes authenticity was dramatically offset by the unravelling at the same time of Irving's own literary hoax, a ghosted 'autobiography' co-authored with fellow-New Yorker Richard Suskind, then living on Majorca. Because of the accompanying legal scandal, this book was first published in Spanish (as La autobiografía de Howard Hughes (1975)), and only twenty-seven years after its scheduled publication as The Autobiography of Howard Hughes (1999). The audacious and meticulously-executed 'project' featured record-breaking advances of $750,000 and took in two sets of handwriting experts, as well as commissioning editors and researchers at two of the most prestigious names in American publishing (Time-Life bought the magazine serialization rights). Originally conceived as an 'authorized biography', Irving rethought the project as 'autobiography' after surreptitiously photocopying the unpublished manuscript of Hughes's trusted former chief executive and spokesman, Noah Dietrich. The material was paraphrased as dialogue with Suskind's help, mainly in Irving's writing studio on Puig des Molins. As the famous recluse's 'autobiography' was a more valuable commercial entity than a mere 'biography', Irving raised the price accordingly. On January 7, 1972 Hughes himself emerged briefly from fifteen-year seclusion in a televised telephone interview which denied all connection with the book. Following the tracing of the publisher's cheques to a Zurich bank account, Irving was sentenced in June 1972 to 30 months in a United States jail (he served 17 months, being released in February 1974); Edith Sommer spent 2 months in an American jail, and 14 in a Swiss jail (March 1973 to May 1974). Irving wrote a full account of the hoax with Richard Suskind, which has been published under three different titles: (1) Clifford Irving: What Really Happened: His Untold Story of the Hughes Affair (1972); (2) Project Octavio (1977); and (3) The Hoax (1981). Since 1978 Irving has lived in various parts of Mexico and the United States, completing seven more novels and one further work of non-fiction. A number of his works have been translated into Spanish, French and German.


Clifford and Edith with their two sons outside the family home in Ibiza, 1972 and 1991
(Pictures Courtesy of Edith Sommer)

Books by Clifford Irving

Fiction

1 On a Darkling Plain (Putnam, 1956); pbk The Quick and the Loving (Popular Library, 1957)

2 The Losers (Coward-McCann, 1957)

3 The Valley* (McGraw-Hill, 1961)

4 The Thirty-Eighth Floor (McGraw-Hill, 1965) Entre dos caminos (1966, Brugera); Das 38. Stockwerk (1966)

5 The Death Freak (1978, Summit Books) Espionage; with Herbert Burkholz under pseudonym 'John Luckless'; Mörder Schach

6 Tom Mix and Pancho Villa (St Martin's Press, 1982 463p, maps). Tom Mix y Pancho Villa: la amistad entre dos grandes hombres legendarios en el escenario de la Revolución mexicana.

7 The Sleeping Spy (1983, Atheneum) with Herbert Burkholz

8 The Angel of Zin (1984, Stein & Day) WWII

9 The Trial (1990, Summit Books) Der Anwalt (1991, Bern), 1991 Readers' Digest omnibus.

10 Final Argument (Simon & Schuster, 1993); Florida; El Juicio (1994), Der Zeuge (1995)

11 The Spring (Simon & Schuster, 1996) Colorado La Ley del Manantial, Die Spur (1997)

Non-fiction

1 Fake! The Story of Elmyr de Hory, the Greatest Art Forger of Our Time (McGraw-Hill, 1969) Pbk 1971.Gefälscht (1970); ¡Fraude! la historia de Elmyr de Hory, el pintor más discutido de nuestro tiempo (1975, Madrid, Sedmay)

2 Spy: the Story of Modern Espionage (1969, Macmillan) with Herbert Burkholz

3 The Battle of Jerusalem: the Six-Day War of June, 1967 (Macmillan, 1970)

4 Clifford Irving: What Really Happened: His Untold Story of the Hughes Affair (1972, Grove Press) with Richard Suskind; British ed: Project Octavio: the Story of the Howard Hughes Hoax (1977, Alison & Busby; 1997 UK re-edition) Later American ed: The Hoax: How the Authorized Biography of Howard Hughes Almost Fooled the World (1981, Permanent Press); Meine Howard Hughes Story

5 The Global Village Idiot: Extracts from the Nixon Tapes (1973, Books of Leeds in association with Clifford Irving Associates for the Anti-Advertising Agency)

6 La Autobiografía de Howard Hughes: reivindicación de un hombre calumniado (1975, Madrid, Sedmay). The Autobiography of Howard Hughes (1999, Terrific Books.com). 'Psychoautobiography'

7 Daddy's Girl: the Campbell Murder Case: a True Tale of Betrayal, Vengeance and Texas Justice (1988, Summit Books) The 1982 murder of Houston attorney James Campbell and his wife Virginia remained unsolved for two years. Police suspected the Campbell's daughter and her boyfriend David West. Finally, a sexy private eye coaxed a confession from West, and the most complex murder case in Texas history exploded into national news. A horrendous, true story of incest, murder and madness.

About Clifford Irving

1 Hoax: the Inside Story of the Howard Hughes-Clifford Irving Affair (1972, Andre Deutsch, London). By Stephen Fay, Lewis Chester and Magnus Linklater.

* Gavin Roy was hated and feared. He turned his stretch of New Mexico into one of the most prosperous empires in the West. His son was the only one who dared to condemn the greed and lawlessness that built that empire.

Martin Davies

martindavies@liveibiza.com

Please click here to read an exclusive interview with Clifford Irving's fourth wife and long time Ibiza resident, Edith Sommer, written by Sinclair Newton at Christmas 1991.

 
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