Michael Finkel: Making lemonade from lemons (er, actually, from lemons, limes, grapefruit and a hint of papaya)

You probably remember former New York Times Magazine star writer Michael Finkel, who was summarily fired in February 2002 when it was discovered that his cover-story subject in a piece about young African workers was, in fact, a composite of a few interviewees.

Three years later, Finkel has published a book about the experience and his relationship with the convicted murderer who had — coincidentally and bizarrely — assumed his identity while on the lam.

Finkel’s comeback is detailed by Sheelah Kolhatkar in this week’s New York Observer in an extensive profile. In it Finkel doesn’t appear overly contrite, but then again it’s all worked out for him rather well: his deal with Harper Collins works out to, all told, about works out to approximately $500,000 – before the thing even goes on sale (who you gonna blame this on, Jayson Blair?). The deal includes foreign and audio rights and an excerpt in Vanity Fair (let the fact-checking jokes commence!).

There’s a lesson to be learned here: making things up is not only way easier than actual reporting, but the pay is pretty darn sweet. Somewhere in the Bronx, Alan Feuer is smiling.

Michael Finkel Hacks Back [NYO]
Editor’s Note, February 21, 2002 [NYT]
True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa [Amazon.com]