Years later, a major hoax finally pays off

Gere For a biography of Howard Hughes featuring intimate interviews with the legendary recluse, McGraw-Hill once paid a cool mil—before finding out the interviews were bogus. Now, 35 years later, the scam behind publishing’s unfinest hour powers a Miramax film called The Hoax, based on Clifford Irving’s book of the same name detailing his misdeeds. Irving didn’t make off like a bandit back in ’72, but he is now—allegedly bagging $400,000 for the film rights to his I-dunnit. In fact, the film is a publicity bonanza for just about everyone except McGraw-Hill. Richard Gere, who plays Irving, can finally live down Dr. T and the Women. Hyperion Books, Miramax’s Disney sib, could get some nice buzz for its new trade-paperback edition of Irving’s tell-all book. And the Permanent Press Publishing Co., which first published it in the U.S. and has licensed it to eReads (another sure beneficiary) expects to see royalties, too. Plus, Permanent Press’s Martin Shepard has some copies left from the early ’80s which are too schmutzed up for retail but may be newly enticing for fans of this “great caper story that went wrong.”

—Posted by Laura Blum