Many writers have been using ebooks to revive their backlist and reboot their careers. A Kindle freebie giveaway offer gives a chance to revisit the career of one of the more bizarre exponents of this practice – Clifford Irving, former inmate of federal institutions in Danbury and Allenwood, and author/creator of the fake Howard Hughes autobiography.

Described by Newsweek as “the most daring literary caper of all time,” the fake Howard Hughes autobiography is still out there and selling. Irving himself has put his entire backlist up on his official website, noting that “a couple of times a week the price of at least one book is sharply reduced. Sometimes it’s free.” And right now, the free title is Clifford Irving’s Prison Journal, recounting his experiences during his 17-month stay as the guest of the Federal Correctional Institution, Danbury, and the Federal Correctional Complex, Allenwood, after his 1972 conviction for fraud over the fake Hughes memoir. (And lest Irving appear too much the gallant Robin Hood, it’s worth pointing out that his then wife Edith also served prison terms in America and Switzerland as an accessory to his crimes.)

According to his Wikipedia details, Irving started putting his backlist titles up for sale as ebooks in 2012, with some described as “best sellers in various Kindle categories.” Given the number of works now listed on the Amazon Clifford Irving Author Page, that probably counts for quite a lucrative second life for the 1970s celebrity author.

A couple of other big names later got to profit from Irving’s crime too. Richard Gere got to star in the 2006 film version of the Clifford Irving story, The Hoax, directed by noted Swedish auteur Lasse Hallström. The film script dallies with possible links between Howard Hughes and the Nixon White House that were reinforced by the Irving case – wild speculation maybe, but quite a sidelight on history.

So if you want to contribute to Irving’s retirement fund, now’s your chance – or if you have ethical objections, just wait for his next freebie.


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