Hello. I’m Clifford Irving, and I’ve had an event-filled life. Once I was on the cover of Time Magazine, and later was thrown in federal prison for writing the hoax “Autobiography of Howard Hughes” which pilloried Richard Nixon among other notables.
I traveled twice around the world before most people living in it today were born, stood guard in an Israeli kibbutz, crewed on a 56′ three-masted schooner that sailed a stormy Atlantic from Mexico to France, and one spring I lived on a houseboat on Dal Lake in Kashmir, from where I rode horseback into Tibet.
Prior to that, growing up in Manhattan I studied painting at the High School of Music & Art, then continued on to Cornell University where I chased beautiful unconquerable Ivy League coeds, rowed on the crew, wrote romantic poetry, decided I wasn’t a great artist and instead dreamed of becoming a great writer.
After Cornell I worked in the newsroom of the New York Times, and in 1953 I sailed to Europe, determined to make my dream into a reality. After hiking from France to Spain, I stumbled, so to speak, upon the decadent and then-unspoiled Mediterranean island of Ibiza — remarkably, in those years, an expat in Spain could live on $60 a month – and wrote my first novel.
I sent it to a literary agent in New York. Miraculously, so it seemed to me, she liked the book, shopped it around, and G. P. Putnam’s Sons published it.
Was it really as easy and as quick as that? Of course not. I was lucky. And determined.
After teaching at UCLA graduate extension school in 1961 (Betsy Drake and Cary Grant were among my pupils), I became a correspondent to the Middle East for NBC.
And I kept writing books. Over time 20 of them were published to varying degrees of success by Putnam, McGraw-Hill, St. Martin’s Press, Stein & Day, and Simon & Schuster. Reviewing my novel, “Trial,” Caroline See in the Los Angeles Times said, “Don’t begin this book at bedtime or you’ll be up all night . . . it’s made by a master.” And Donald Westlake, reviewing “Final Argument” in the New York Times, wrote: “Every part of it is terrific. What a wonderful piece of storytelling.”
In 1970, I created a writing event which became the notorious Howard Hughes Autobiography Hoax (now published on Amazon.com’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook as the“Autobiography of Howard Hughes.”) Hughes’ biographer, Michael Drosnin, in “Citizen Hughes,” claimed that the threat of the book’s publication caused the White House to worry enough about Hughes’ revelations of bribery for President Nixon to approve the Watergate break-in. But that’s a story for someone else to write.
My reward in 1972 for that Hughes lunacy was 16 months in three federal prisons. That sojourn is detailed in my prison journal – “thrilling, confessional, and explosive,” according to Playboy magazine, which published an excerpt.
Let me share with you three high points in my life. In 1958, in a simultaneous exhibition given by the chess champion of Spain, I battled him to a draw; and thirty years later I drove in the winning run in the annual East Hampton Artists v Writers Softball Game.
Lastly, in a unique eBook event, I published twelve of my books simultaneously to Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook. Now in 2014 the list has grown to twenty.
Recently I did some editing on those books (typos are an annoyance difficult to avoid entirely in eBooks) and republished them at affordable prices: $2.99 to $5.99 – cheaper than a paperback and a lot cheaper than a movie. A good read is one of the singular pleasures offered to us by civilization.
“Move over, Butch and Sundance, it’s not that I love you both less, just that I’ve come to love Pancho and Tom more,” said the New York Times Book Review of my novel “Tom Mix and Pancho Villa,” which I sometimes think is my best book, although “Trial,”“Daddy’s Girl” and “Final Argument” – all legal thrillers – are the hottest sellers. I stand by them all.
The Chicago Tribune described my investigative book “Fake!” as “The wild, true story of three men who raped the art world . . . one of the most sophisticated suspense sagas of our time.”
A few months ago, out of the blue, four Italian publishers bid for the right to publish a translation of “The Angel of Zin,” my 30-year-old holocaust novel. “A story that will be haunting us forever. Absolutely compelling. A totally engrossing thriller,” said Thomas Keneally, author of “Schindler’s List.”
Twenty five boxes of my manuscripts, notes, journals and correspondence are being catalogued by the Center for American History at the University of Texas (Austin), which acquired the archive from me in 2013.
Thanks, and best wishes –