The Voyeur’s Motel, Gay Talese’s book-length profile of alleged peeping tom and hotelier Gerald Foos, comes out in less than two weeks, but according to The Washington Post, Talese has “disavowed” the book after being confronted with new doubts about the truthfulness of its subject.
“I should not have believed a word he said,” Talese told the Post. “I’m not going to promote this book. How dare I promote it when its credibility is down the toilet?”
Foos claimed to have spied on hotel guests for decades after buying the Manor House Motel in suburban Denver in the 1960s, but the Post reports discovering problems with Foos’ narrative while conducting routine fact-checking:
Talese does note in “The Voyeur’s Motel” that he found discrepancies in Foos’s accounts. Foos’s earliest journal entries, for example, were dated 1966. But the author subsequently learned from county property records that Foos didn’t buy the Manor House Motel until 1969 — three years after he said he started watching his guests from the catwalk. “I cannot vouch for every detail that he recounts in his manuscript,” Talese writes in the book.
But property records also show a series of sales and purchases of the motel from 1980 to 1988, none of which Talese said he knew about. In a series of interviews, he expressed surprise, disappointment and anger to learn about the transactions. He said he had not been aware of them until a reporter asked him about it on Wednesday.
“The source of my book, Gerald Foos, is certifiably unreliable,” said Talese. “He’s a dishonorable man, totally dishonorable... I know that... I did the best I could on this book, but maybe it wasn’t good enough.”
Earlier this year, Talese and The New Yorker (which published an except from The Voyeur’s Motel in April) faced criticism over the legal and ethical questions raised by working with Foos, who, among other transgressions, claims to have not come forward as a witness after reporting a murder he may have provoked.
Distancing himself from the book over accuracy may be a convenient way for Talese to sidestep the moral implications of collaborating with an allegedly prolific predator. Just easily, however, Talese could be courting the controversy as a promotional tactic itself.
For their part, publisher Grove Atlantic apparently still plans to go forward with The Voyeur’s Motel, but is considering “appending an author’s note or footnotes in subsequent printings to account for errors or missing information.”