LiteratEye #5: A Case of Cooked Books?

Here’s the fifth installment of LiteratEye, a series found only on The Art of the Prank Blog, by W.J. Elvin III, editor and publisher of FIONA: Mysteries & Curiosities of Literary Fraud & Folly and the LitFraud blog.

LiteratEye #5: A Case of Cooked Books?
By W.J. Elvin III
March 13, 2009

A Rock and a Hard PlaceScanning the big picture – a controversial book plus all the investigations and commentary over the years – well, looks to me like more red flags than at a Stalin-era May Day parade in Moscow. The book in question is the excellently written tragic autobiography of Anthony Godby Johnson, age, at the time he wrote it, 14.

“Tony” suffered from AIDS, TB, syphilis, loss of a leg, loss of a testicle, fifty or so broken bones that healed badly, and a host of other serious traumas such as forced prostitution to a celebrity sex ring. He is now reported by his adoptive father to be a happy and healthy young man in his 30s, or maybe late 20s. His story inspired a novel, TV specials and a film – mostly, it should added, from a somewhat doubting perspective.

A big problem was, and is, only one reporter of the many who have questioned the truth of the book actually saw Tony, and even that one reporter now has doubts about the glimpse she got. On the other hand, several people have signed affidavits swearing they know Tony, and still others have made the claim informally.

The book, A Rock and a Hard Place came out about fifteen years ago but has re-appeared in recent news stories due to problems faced by psychologist Marc Zackheim, the adoptive father who recently cited his experience raising Tony as a credential in applying to run a home for troubled boys on the island of Guam. He was awarded the contract, but then a government auditor on the island raised questions resulting in cancellation.

The questions come easy, the answers are another story. Continue reading “LiteratEye #5: A Case of Cooked Books?”