Good news for fabricating memoirist James Frey and his once-embattled publisher: His first novel, Bright Shiny Morning, just debuted at number 9 on the Times bestseller list, with 14,000 copies sold. "We hear HarperCollins is pleased," reports the Observer's Leon Neyfakh. Among the many, many people not sharing the publisher's glee are certain proud citizens of Los Angeles, who have begun to notice false statements in the book about their city and its history. "New York reviewers adore the book because they think it nails L.A.," wrote LA Observed. But get this: It doesn't! The book is filled with awful, awful LIES!

And no one seems to care about Frey's disclaimer that "nothing in this book should be considered accurate or reliable," either. When a real city is named, along with real people and events within that city, it seems some readers expect accuracy. A list of the errors found by one blogger:

  • "In 1873, the city's first newspaper, the Los Angeles Daily Herald, opens." — Can't be true because there were two other newspapers publishing in the 1850s.
  • In 1895 all of the incorporated banks in LA County are robbed at least once - The author of a book about one LA bank, plus a search of the LA Times Historical Newspaper Index, indicate this is false.
  • The city instituted water metering in 1895 - The city did not own its own water supply at the time, and a private water company did not start metering until 1904.
  • Frey said LA had 14,000 people in 1865. In fact, it was about one-third that.

See? Unlike any other novelists, James Frey got historical minutiae wrong! Probably on purpose, just so he could sensationally claim that the LA didn't have a newspaper until 1873 and move the date of water metering forward nine years. He has not changed one bit. Scandal!

(Related: The LA Times hated on Bright Shiny Morning for a far better reason — it's a boring, poorly written and shallow (not just inaccurate) caricature of Los Angeles.)

[Observer, Ghost World]