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The University of Texas at Austin


Clifford Irving Papers Available for Research


Oct. 16, 2014

AUSTIN, TX — The Briscoe Center has acquired the papers of controversial author and investigative journalist Clifford Irving. A highly regarded writer, Irving may be best known for his 1972 conviction for fraud after elaborately faking an autobiography of Howard Hughes.

"Clifford Irving is an important writer who has lived a colorful and controversial life, which has been a major source of inspiration for much of his literary work," said Don Carleton, executive director at the Briscoe Center.

Clifford Irving was born in 1930 and grew up in New York City. He graduated from Cornell University and worked in the New York Times newsroom before sailing to Europe in 1953, where he worked on his first novel on the Spanish island of Ibiza. In 1961 he was a correspondent to the Middle East for NBC. Irving spent the rest of the decade growing in stature as a writer. However, in 1972 he was convicted of fraud stemming from his production of a faked autobiography of enigmatic billionaire Howard Hughes. The affair attracted worldwide media attention.

Irving, working with fellow writer Richard Suskind, created a manuscript based on forged documents and audio interviews. They persuaded publisher McGraw-Hill to forward an advance of $765,000, which Irving's then-wife Edith placed into a Swiss bank account. Though reclusive, Hughes held a telephone press conference to denounce the book two months before its planned publication in March 1972. Irving was convicted later that year and spent seventeen months in federal prison.

From 60 Minutes, 1972. Produced by Philip Scheffler, whose archives are also held at the Briscoe Center and include a file on Irving.

"Having been processed by archival staff at the center, I'm hopeful that the imposition of some order will help make sense out of what often seems to me a chaotic, disordered, and amoral life," said Irving. "It's not for me to say what students can learn from such a tale. It's for them to say and for me to learn. Ancora imparo, as Michelangelo said."

Irving's papers have been comprehensively catalogued and are now open for research. The Irving Papers (25 feet) include correspondence with lawyers, publishers, and colleagues; personal diaries; lawsuit documents; prison journals; drafts and notes related to Irving's literary works; portions of the Hughes manuscript; fan mail; information related to Irving's 1972 bankruptcy; childhood drawings and school report cards; photographs; and restricted documents that Irving battled to obtain from the U.S. State Department.

"I'm delighted that his papers are now available to enrich scholarship here at the university," said Carleton. "The collection covers Irving's work and life with impressive depth."

The papers include documentation related to Irving's authorized 1968 biography of Elmyr de Hory, a painter, art forger, and fugitive. Born in Hungary in 1906, he escaped a German prison hospital during World War II and eventually made his way to Paris. An accomplished artist in his own right, de Hory excelled in copying the work of noted masters such as Picasso, Matisse, and Modigliani, selling hundreds of paintings over a career spanning three decades. De Hory met Irving in Ibiza and sold his story. He died in 1976, not long after France had begun efforts to extradite him. Irving's book about de Hory, Fake!, served as the inspiration for Orson Welles's 1973 work, F For Fake. The film, mostly in documentary form, also incorporates Irving's personal story.

Contact: Ben Wright, Public Information Officer - - 512 495 4204