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James Frey

James Frey
Born James Christopher Frey
(1969-09-12) September 12, 1969
Cleveland, Ohio, United States
  • Writer
  • Media producer
Nationality American
Notable works

James Christopher Frey (born September 12, 1969) is an American writer and the founder and CEO of Full Fathom Five, a transmedia production company responsible for the young adult series "The Lorien Legacies", the first book of which I Am Number Four (2010) was made into a feature film by DreamWorks Studios.

His two first books A Million Little Pieces (2003) and My Friend Leonard (2005), were marketed as memoirs, but large parts of the stories were later found to be exaggerated or fabricated.[1] His 2008 novel Bright Shiny Morning was also a bestseller.[2]


  • Career 1
  • Controversy 2
    • Million Little Pieces 2.1
      • Media skepticism 2.1.1
      • Live confrontation with Winfrey 2.1.2
      • Aftermath 2.1.3
    • Full Fathom Five 2.2
  • References and footnotes 3
  • External links 4


Frey also wrote the screenplays to the films Kissing a Fool and Sugar: The Fall of the West.[3] Both were produced in 1998, the latter of which he directed as well.

Doubleday published A Million Little Pieces in April 2003, and editors selected it as their favorite book of that year.[4]

In 2004, Frey wrote My Friend Leonard, which continued where A Million Little Pieces left off, and centered on the father-son relationship which Frey and his friend Leonard, from Hazelden, shared. My Friend Leonard was published in June 2005 by Riverhead, and became a bestseller.

In 2007, Frey wrote Bright Shiny Morning, which was published in May 2008 by HarperCollins.

Frey's books have been published in thirty-one languages worldwide.

In late 2007, Frey signed a new three-book, seven-figure deal with Harper Collins to release his novel, Bright Shiny Morning, which was published May 13, 2008.[5][6] Bright Shiny Morning appeared on the New York Times bestseller list, and has received mixed reviews. The New York Times's Janet Maslin, who had previously been one of Frey's detractors, gave the book a rave review.[7] The New Yorker review described the novel as "banal".[8] The book also received highly polarized reviews by the New York, LA Times, Guardian UK. The first epigraph states: "Nothing in this book should be considered accurate or reliable."

In 2011, The Final Testament of the Holy Bible, depicted as "the last book of the Bible" was released on Good Friday, April 22, 2011. He is self-publishing e-editions of the book.[9] A self-professed atheist, his work has reflected his attempt to write about a god that he "might actually believe in."[10]

On August 19, 2010, the moving company, on the website Libcom.[12]

In October 7, 2014, announced Endgame: The Calling, part an a trilogy written, with 3 novellas by Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton. It was published by HarperCollins, It was turned into an augmented reality game by Googles Niantic Labs, as well as a movie by 20th Century Fox. The premise of the novel is that aliens created human life on Earth and 12 ancient lines are destined to train a player to fight to the death for the survival of their line once Endgame begins. The book series will also have clues which will lead one lucky winner to a cash prize.[13][14]

Frey is a Denison University alum and history major from the class of 1992.


Million Little Pieces

Media skepticism

On January 8, 2006, The Smoking Gun website published an article called "A Million Little Lies: Exposing James Frey's Fiction Addiction", alleging that Frey fabricated large parts of his memoirs, including details about his criminal record.[15] One incident in the book that came under particular scrutiny was a 1986 train-automobile collision in St. Joseph Township, Michigan.[16]

The website alleged that Frey had never been incarcerated and that he greatly exaggerated the circumstances of a key arrest detailed in the memoir: hitting a police officer with his car, while high on crack, which led to a violent melee with multiple officers and an 87-day jail sentence. In the police report that TSG uncovered, Frey was held at a police station for no more than five hours before posting a bond of a few hundred dollars for some minor offenses. The arresting officer, according to TSG, recalled Frey as having been polite and cooperative.

The book's hardcover (Doubleday) and paperback (Anchor Books) publishers initially stood by Frey, but examination of the evidence caused the publishers to alter their stances.[17] As a consequence, the publishers decided to include a publisher's note and an author's note from Frey as disclaimers to be included in future publications.[18]

The Minneapolis Star Tribune had questioned Frey's claims as early as 2003. Frey responded by saying, "I've never denied I've altered small details."[19] In a May 2003 interview, Frey claimed that his publisher had fact-checked his first book.[15]

On January 11, 2006, Frey appeared with his mother on Larry King Live on CNN. He defended his work while claiming that all memoirs alter minor details for literary effect. Frey consistently referred to the reality of his addiction, which he said was the principal point of his work. Oprah Winfrey called in at the end of the show defending the essence of Frey's book and the inspiration it provided to her viewers, but said she relied on the publisher to assess the book's authenticity.[20]

Live confrontation with Winfrey

On January 26, 2006, as more accusations against the book continued to surface, Winfrey invited Frey on her show. She wanted to hear from him directly whether he had lied to her or "simply" embellished minor details, as he had told Larry King. Frey admitted to several of the allegations against him. He acknowledged that The Smoking Gun had been accurate when the website reported that Frey had only spent a few hours in jail rather than the 87 days Frey claimed in his memoirs.[21][22]

Winfrey then brought out Frey's publisher Nan Talese to defend her decision to classify the book as a memoir. Talese admitted that she had done nothing to check the book's veracity, despite the fact that her representatives had assured Winfrey's staff that the book was indeed non-fiction and described it as "brutally honest" in a press release.

Several columnists weighed in on the controversy; David Carr of the New York Times,[23] New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd,[24] Larry King,[25] Washington Post's Richard Cohen [26]


On January 31, 2006, it was announced that Frey had been dropped by his literary manager, Kassie Evashevski of Brillstein-Grey Entertainment, over matters of trust. In an interview with Publishers Weekly, Evashevski said that she had "never personally seen a media frenzy like this regarding a book before".

On February 1, 2006, Random House published Frey's note to the reader which was subsequently included in later editions of the book. In the note, Frey apologized for fabricating portions of his book.[27]

On February 24, 2006, Frey's publicist revealed that Penguin imprint Riverhead had dropped out of a two-book, seven-figure deal with Frey. Riverhead had previously published Frey's bestselling 2005 book, My Friend Leonard.

On September 12, 2006, Frey and publisher Random House, Inc. reached a tentative legal settlement, whereby readers who felt that they had been defrauded by Frey's A Million Little Pieces would be offered a refund. In order to receive the refund, customers had to submit a proof of purchase, pieces of the book itself (page 163 from the hardcover or the front cover from the paperback), and complete a sworn statement indicating that they had purchased the book under the assumption that it was a memoir.[28]

On July 28, 2007, at a literary convention in Texas, Nan Talese verbally attacked Oprah for misrepresenting the purpose of the interview on January 26, 2006. Just before air time, both Talese and Frey were told the topic of the show had been changed to "The James Frey Controversy".[29]

On November 2, 2007, the Associated Press published a story about a judgment in favor of readers who felt deceived by Frey's claims of A Million Little Pieces being a memoir. Although the publisher, Random House, had set aside $2.35 million for lawsuits, only 1,729 readers came forward to receive a refund for the book. The refund offer was extended to anyone who had purchased the book prior to Frey's disclosing the falsehoods therein. Chicago lawyer Larry D. Drury, defending the plaintiff, received approximately $1.3 million for legal fees, distribution of the legal notice, and charitable donations to three charities, while total claimants' refunds issued to readers only came to $27,348. The publisher also agreed to provide a disclosure at the beginning of the book, citing the somewhat fictitious nature of the text.[30]

In May 2009, Vanity Fair reported that Winfrey had called Frey and apologized for the surprise topic change of the January 26, 2006.[31] and she made a televised apology in 2011.[32]

Following the events of Frey's Oprah appearance, South Park created a parody of the events with their character Towelie, entitled "A Million Little Fibers".

Full Fathom Five

In 2009, Frey formed Full Fathom Five, a young adult novel publishing company that aimed to create highly commercial novels like Twilight. In November 2010, controversy arose when an MFA student who had been in talks to create content for the company released her extremely limiting contract online. The contract allows Frey license to remove an author from a project at any time, does not require him to give the author credit for their work, and only pays a standard advance of $250. A New York magazine article entitled "James Frey's Fiction Factory" gave more details about the company, including information about the highly successful "Lorien Legacies" series, a collaboration between MFA student Jobie Hughes and Frey. The article details how Frey removed Hughes from the project, allegedly during a screaming match between the two authors. In the article, Frey is accused of abusing and using MFA students as cheap labor to churn out commercial young adult books.[33][34]

References and footnotes

  1. ^ "The man who rewrote his life", Laura Barton, September 15, 2006, The Guardian
  2. ^ "Bright Shiny Morning-NY Times Bestseller". The New York Times. June 1, 2008. Retrieved May 12, 2012. 
  3. ^ at theSugar: The Fall of the West Internet Movie Database
  4. ^ Barnes & – Books: A Million Little Pieces, by James Frey, Paperback A Million Little Pieces became a bestseller, ultimately selling in excess of 4.5 million copies. In September 2005, Oprah Winfrey chose A Million Little Pieces for her monthly book club.
  5. ^ Million Little Pieces' author writing a novel"'". MSNBC. Associated Press. September 12, 2007. 
  6. ^ Motoko, Rich (September 13, 2007). "Book Deal for Writer Who Fabricated Parts of Memoir". The New York Times. 
  7. ^ Maslin, Janet; "Little Pieces of Los Angeles, Done His Way ";; May 12, 2008.
  8. ^ "listing for Bright Shiny Morning". Retrieved May 12, 2012. 
  9. ^ Oldenburg, Ann (March 14, 2011). "'"James Frey pens modern-day 'Holy Bible. USA Today. 
  10. ^ "James Frey on Religion, God and Death". YouTube. Retrieved October 24, 2014. 
  11. ^ "HBO working on a show about porn business". New York Post. August 19, 2010. 
  12. ^ "A Moving Story". Libcom. August 28, 2012. 
  13. ^ "New Project from Niantic Labs revealed: James Frey’s ENDGAME". Niantic Labs. January 15, 2014. Retrieved October 24, 2014. 
  14. ^ "Google and James Frey will turn 'Endgame' novels into an augmented reality world". The Verge. January 15, 2014. Retrieved October 24, 2014. 
  15. ^ a b Time Waster. "A Million Little Lies – January 8, 2006". Retrieved May 12, 2012. 
  16. ^ A Million Little Lies – January 8, 2006
  17. ^ Burroughs, Augusten. "A Million Little Pieces (9780385507752): James Frey: Books". Retrieved June 18, 2011. 
  18. ^ Kolhatkar, Sheelah (January 23, 2006). "The Awful Untruth". New York Observer. Archived from the original on February 2, 2006. 
  19. ^ "Is Minnesota memoir a million fabrications?". Minneapolis Star Tribune. January 11, 2006. Archived from the original on January 13, 2006. 
  20. ^ "Oprah Winfrey's Official Website – Live Your Best Life". Retrieved June 18, 2011. 
  21. ^ "Oprah Winfrey's Official Website – Live Your Best Life". Retrieved March 24, 2015. 
  22. ^ Winrey, Oprah. "Oprah's Questions for James Frey". Oprah Winfrey. Retrieved 24 March 2015. 
  23. ^ Carr, David (January 30, 2006). "How Oprahness trumped truthiness". The New York Times. Retrieved October 5, 2007. 
  24. ^ Dowd, Maureen (January 8, 2006). "Oprah's Bunk Club". The New York Times. Retrieved October 5, 2007. 
  25. ^ "Interview With Oprah Winfrey". Larry King Live (CNN). Retrieved May 5, 2010. 
  26. ^ Poniewozik, James (January 26, 2006). "Oprah Clarifies Her Position: Truth, Good. Embarrassing Oprah, Very Bad". Time. Retrieved October 5, 2007. 
  27. ^ "James Frey Admits Memoir's Alterations". Associated Press. February 1, 2006. Archived from the original on February 3, 2006. 
  28. ^ "'"Frey, Publisher Settle Suits Over 'Pieces. MSNBC. September 12, 2006. Retrieved September 14, 2006. 
  29. ^ "Oprah vs. James Frey: The Sequel". Time. July 30, 2007. Retrieved July 30, 2007. 
  30. ^ "Judge Approves 'A Million Little Pieces' Refund Settlement for Disgruntled Readers". Fox News Channel. November 2, 2007. Retrieved November 3, 2007. 
  31. ^ "Oprah apologizes for slamming author James Frey". Yahoo!. Reuters. May 13, 2009. Archived from the original on May 21, 2009. 
  32. ^ Oprah Apologizes to James Frey,, May 17, 2011. Retrieved May 2013.
  33. ^ Mozes, Suzanne (November 12, 2010). "Inside Full Fathom Five, James Frey's Young-Adult-Novel Assembly Line". New York. Retrieved June 18, 2011. 
  34. ^ "Read the Brutal Contract from James Frey's Fiction Factory – Daily Intel". New York. Retrieved June 18, 2011. 

External links

  • James Frey's Website and Blog
  • James Frey at the Internet Movie Database
  • Theodora & Callum Interview
  • A Million Little PiecesTranscript of January 11, 2006 interview with Larry King regarding the controversy over
  • Full transcript of Oprah/Frey interview held after controversy became public. Retrieved on 16-12-2009.
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