Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Did She Commit a Crime?

To be fair to the publisher of the fake memoir, Love and Consequences, I mentioned yesterday it does appear that the company is doing everything it can to recall all the books shipped to bookstores and to get it all behind them as quickly as possible. The thing I still find hardest to believe, however, is how Riverhead Books could drop the ball this way. How were the fact-checkers so easily duped into believing this story? Wishful thinking?

(Photo Credit: Sol Neelman - International Herald Tribune)

Blomberg. com has a follow-up
article detailing Riverhead's efforts to make things right. I wonder what kind of financial hit they will take from this fiasco because publishing, then pulping, 24,000 hardcover books has to cost a small fortune.
``Love and Consequences'' was published just last week to widespread praise. Riverhead Books, a division of Penguin Group, had printed about 24,000 copies, of which 19,000 were shipped to stores.

Now the deeply embarrassed publisher is moving fast to control the damage. The book's page on the Penguin Web site has been deleted, the author's book tour has been canceled and, most significantly, the books are being recalled from bookstores.

In addition, Riverhead is defending itself from charges of sloppy fact-checking. According to a statement from executive director of publicity Marilyn Ducksworth released yesterday:

``Prior to publication the author provided a great deal of evidence to support her story: photographs, letters; parts of Peggy's (i.e., Seltzer's) life story in another published book; Peggy's story had been supported by one of her former professors; Peggy even introduced the agent to people who misrepresented themselves as her foster siblings.''
Now I have to wonder whether Margaret Seltzer's dishonesty has cost the job of one or more Riverhead editors. If not, should it? Does Riverhead have grounds to file criminal charges against this con artist for signing a contract with them under fraudulent circumstances? She apparently did much more than simply lie to the publisher; she got others to lie for her, misrepresented photos and faked letters. Shouldn't she be charged with a crime? Can she be sued in civil court for the losses that Riverhead is going to suffer as a result of her lying?

The first paragraph of the article says it all... like athletes on steroids? "Incentives to cheat continue to outweigh the fear of getting caught." Everybody else is doing we go again.


  1. I think she absolutely committed a crime and should be held accountable. This is going to cost the publisher a great deal of money and as you said maybe someone's job.

  2. Is this book actually any good? Is it a good story? Or good writing? My probably naive question is: why wasn't it pitched as fiction? Is this a marketing ploy gone wrong or is this the author's psychological need to define herself through a lie? The first would, I think, ask that the capability of the editor be questioned, but the other might be more of a question for a psychotherapist.

  3. I agree, Lisa. What she did was criminal and she should pay for it...both in monetary terms and otherwise.

  4. Good questions, Ted, and I have to wonder about the woman's mental stability, myself. It was something so obviously doomed to failure that it seems that no sane person would have attempted it. I do think, too, that it would have made a decent novel and that it would have likely been published as such...maybe not in such big numbers as a first printing of 24,000 books however.