March 4, 2008 / 8:41 PM / 9 years ago

Gangland memoir is fabricated: publisher

3 Min Read

NEW YORK (Reuters) - "Love and Consequences," a critically acclaimed memoir about a mixed-raced girl growing up in a gang-ridden neighborhood of Los Angeles, is a fabrication and the 19,000 distributed copies of the book will be recalled, its publisher said on Tuesday.

Author Margaret B. Jones, is actually Margaret Seltzer, a white woman who grew up in Sherman Oaks in Southern California and attended a private Episcopal school, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.

In a tearful telephone interview with the newspaper, Seltzer admitted she never ran drugs for a gang and never lived with a foster family as she had claimed in the book.

Riverhead Books, the imprint of Penguin Group that published the book, will offer refunds through booksellers to anyone who bought it, spokeswoman Marilyn Ducksworth said.

The incident is the latest black eye for the publishing business. Two years ago author James Frey admitted he had fabricated key parts of his drug and alcohol memoir "A Million Little Pieces," which was the top selling nonfiction book in the United States in 2005.

"The business of publishing is so difficult, so challenging, and so elusive at times that people will do anything," said Lee Gutkind, author of "Keep It Real: Everything You Need to Know About Researching and Writing Creative Nonfiction."

"You would think what happened with James Frey would wake up the publishing world," he added.

According to the Times, Seltzer, 33, also never graduated from the University of Oregon, as she claimed.

In a statement, Riverhead said that Seltzer had provided "a great deal of evidence to support her story," including photographs, letters, support from a former professor and from people who pretended to be her foster siblings.

Ducksworth said Seltzer's real sister had called the publisher to express concerns, after which the story fell apart. Riverhead is canceling Seltzer's planned book tour.

"When it became known that the author was misrepresenting her personal story we took it seriously, moved very quickly and attempted to corroborate new information we were presented with," Riverhead said in a statement.

Editing by Alan Elsner

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