Because today is Fake Writer Day, best-selling author James Frey is, alas, not all he claims to be. While we have no doubt that, as chronicled in his Oprah-approved rehab memoir A Million Little Pieces, he was chugging 5 O'Clock, smoking rock, snorting half of Colombia and popping pills of shit we've never heard of, the Smoking Gun reports that Frey was never quite the bad-ass Criminal he claims to have been.
Pieces has spent the last 14 weeks at the top of the Times best-seller list and, as of today and yesterday, is resting comfortably with a #1 Amazon.com sales rank. The book is being made into a movie and has spawned a successful follow-up, My Friend Leonard, an account of Frey's life after rehab. As Oprah would emphatically tell you, Frey's works are gritty, compelling and brutally honest. Except maybe not so much on the honest part.
For those of you who have neither the time nor the patience nor the Adderall to sift through TSG's 12,000-word investigation on Frey, our recap is after the jump.
Throughout most of Pieces, Frey's mantra is, "I am an Alcoholic and I am a drug Addict and I am a Criminal." As he enters Minnesota's Hazelden rehab clinic, Frey claims to be wanted in three states. His criminal past is a significant element in Pieces; arguably the most narratively important incident occurred a few months after his graduation from Denison when, according to Frey, he got all drunk-n-cracky and hit a police officer with his car. The following serves a crucial turning point in Frey's memoir, the moment at which things go from bad to irredeemable:
As I was driving up, I saw her standing out front with a few of her friends. I was staring at her and not paying attention to the road and I drove up onto a sidewalk and hit a Cop who was standing there. I didn't hit him hard because I was only going about five miles an hour, but I hit him. The Cop called for backup and I sat in the car and stared at her and waited. The backup came and they approached the car and asked me to get out and I said you want me out, then get me out, you fucking Pigs. They opened the door, I started swinging, and they beat my ass with billy clubs and arrested me. As they hauled me away kicking and screaming, I tried to get the crowd to attack them and free me, which didn't happen.
The incident, says Frey, resulted in Assault with a Deadly Weapon, Assaulting an Officer of the Law, Felony DUI, Disturbing the Peace, Resisting Arrest, Driving Without a License, Driving Without Insurance, Attempted Incitement of a Riot, Possession of a Narcotic with Intent to Distribute, and Felony Mayhem. In Pieces, this ultimately leads to three months spent in county jail, which serve as the opening for My Friend Leonard.
While Frey has had the majority of his court records expunged, one document remained — and, of course, the kids at the Smoking Gun got their hands on it. It reveals that there were no charges, no beat-downs, and certainly no time spent in county jail. At most, Frey spent 5 or so hours in custody after his arrest.
The Denison situation isn't the only criminal activity Frey writes of. In Pieces, he claims to have been the subject of an FBI investigation for drug dealing. In reality, Granville, Ohio authorities were merely busting Frey and his Sigma Alpha Epsilon brothers for dime bags and the like. Frey also claimed to be "wanted" in both Michigan and North Carolina, but he later told TSG off-record that they were "alcohol related" and "some bullshit nothing." (The off-record conversations were later put on-record after Frey posted a letter from TSG on his personal site, detailing the off-record material and thus making it on-record. Despite his insistence of transparency, he's brought in legal letter writer extraordinaire, Marty Singer, to work on his behalf.)
TSG has, of course, found even more inconsistencies in Pieces and Leonard, but you get the idea. We doubt either book is purely fiction (though, interestingly, Pieces was initially pitched as such), though it's clear that Frey has taken some serious dramatic liberties. And that might not be such a big deal if he hadn't consistently, appearance after appearance, insisted that all the events — even the little details — in the book are 100% true. Hell, he even brought Oprah to tears. And if you make Oprah cry under false pretenses, well, we just can't stand by that.
But, on the other hand, the memoir genre is so damn glutted. It feels kinda nice to have some quality fiction back on the bestseller lists.