CRIME : The Fabulous Hoax of Clifford Irving

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Lipton and the other Beats suspected that Irving was merely slumming. Almost from the start of his year in Venice, he lived a kind of double life, cultivating wealthy Hollywood producers and directors. One of his friends was Screenwriter Ernest Lehman, who is now the director of Portnoy's Complaint. Lehman introduced Irving and Fay to Irving Wallace and Stanley Meyer. Tn his private journal, Wallace remembers Fay as "a fantastic girl, incredible beauty—beautiful figure, beautiful neuroses, beautiful mind." His portrait of Irving is less flattering: "Fay told me Cliff is incapable of love. He is too selfabsorbed. As a writer and as a male, he's lazy. He will write only out of himself. He has no curiosity. I once suggested to Cliff that he make a doctor or a lawyer character, but he said I know nothing about a doctor or lawyer. I said, You should do research to get into their skins, but he wouldn't."

Ambivalence. Fay and Cliff were married in 1961 and soon had a son Josh. Their life together was never idyllic. "He drank heavily," Lipton recalls. "His favorite pastime was to get high and spin fantasies of fame and fortune." Sometimes he beat Fay. Apparently he also gambled and womanized, and then lied about his activities to Fay and his friends. For all that, Irving Wallace recalls, "Cliff was a winning person, a little egocentric but very charming, loose and easy."

During the 1961-'62 school year, Irving taught creative writing at the U.C.L.A. Extension school, a job he obtained on the recommendation of Robert Kirsch. Later he picked up expense money by selling a script to TV's Bonanza and doing other television work. By the spring of 1962, he had abandoned the down-and-out lifestyle.

It was in late 1962 that Irving and Fay took off for the Balearic island of Ibiza, which Lipton calls "the Foreign Legion of the pseudointellectual literary jet set." Irving had lived there off and on during the '50s. Now he made his home there in an exotically primitive colony of artists and writers and international posers. Fay soon drifted away; they were divorced in 1965. In 1967 he married Edith, a German-born abstract painter who had fled to Ibiza after her divorce from a businessman in Wuppertal, Germany. Edith and Clifford had two sons, Ned and Barnaby.

He and Edith settled into what he describes as "a simple life that gives you a sense of your own awareness." Yet, in his late 30s, he had failed to produce the Big Novel. One inspiration that Ibiza did give him, of course, was Elmyr de Hory, the elegantly elfin and occasionally bitchy art forger who was the subject of Irving's best-known book, Fake! Even though its reviews were good, Fake! sold fewer than 30,000 copies.

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