CRIME : The Fabulous Hoax of Clifford Irving

THE tale came wrapped extravagantly—boxes within boxes, each festooned with its own diminished fantasies, each gaudily papered in ever thinner tissues of lies. The serial revelations in the Howard Hughes-Clifford Irving affair became an extraordinary popular entertainment, a top of the TV news, a front-page divertissement that evoked the distractions of an earlier, less desperate age. Like the Americans who once crowded the docks waiting for the latest chapter of Dickens to arrive by boat, devotees anticipated the next surprises.

As Irving's outrageous story collapsed in on itself, one principal element in...

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