February 24, 2006

How I'd Cast It

Riverhead has dropped James Frey.

I have to say, I'm actually a little surprised. He had a two book contract with them, and I imagine the advance was substantial. What happens then? I think he probably has to give at least some of it back. My knowledge of how this works is fuzzier than it should be, mostly based (this knowledge of mine) on the Chevy Chase movie where he fails to turn in his book The Big Heist and eventually a weird little guy in a suit comes to visit him to ask for the money back. He turns in his wife's children's book about a squirrel instead, pretending that he has written it. Hijinks ensue, obviously. Come to think of it, there's perhaps more than a superficial similarity there.

But unless Frey's wife has a children's book about a squirrel lying around, I suppose I'd advise him not to answer the door if a weird little guy in a suit shows up at his Manhattan pleasure palace.

Word on the street is they're canceling the movie deal for A Million Little Pieces as well. It would still make a terrific film, much like Shattered Glass, except it's a comedy starring Will Ferrell. Come on, he'd make a great Frey, wouldn't he? If we can't get Chevy, I mean.

(via Leila.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at February 24, 2006 05:23 PM | TrackBack

ick...I hate Will Ferrell.

Posted by: Amy 80 at February 24, 2006 05:55 PM

Down the line, amazon.com could sell it as a two-pack with "The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things".

Posted by: Duncan at February 24, 2006 06:43 PM

I'm with Amy. His initials, WNF, stand for Will is Not Funny.

Posted by: Zaphod at February 24, 2006 06:51 PM

You're thinking of the movie "Funny Farm."

Posted by: Pat at February 24, 2006 07:34 PM

I just realized that you knew the movie title and linked to it. Whoops.

Posted by: Pat at February 24, 2006 07:35 PM

I have a passion for Will Ferrell that burns deep within my loins like some flaming, golden hawk. That would be an great movie.

Posted by: josh at February 24, 2006 07:44 PM

Did they really have to drop the guy? Couldn't he have stayed as a FICTION writer?

Posted by: Susie at February 24, 2006 09:21 PM

As a FICTION writer? Good gravy Marie, AMLP is so bad I wouldn't hire James Frey to write for the adult entertainment industry.

Posted by: David Cummings at February 24, 2006 11:55 PM

this is so easy.

CHRIS ROCK as James Frey

UMA THURMAN as the Suicidal Girlfriend

WILLIAM H. MACY as the Mobster Friend

JOHNATHAN WINTERS as the Substance Abuse Counselor

ROBERT DeNIRO as Larry King



you could recast "The Lord of the Rings"


LIV TYLER (ARWEN) as the Suicidal Girlfriend

IAN MCKELLEN (GANDOLF) as Leonard the Mobster

SEAN ASTIN (SAM) as the Substance Abuse Counselor



Posted by: bookfraud at February 25, 2006 02:13 AM

I don't know if it was a good move to drop him. This scandal is giving the book a ton of publicity. I'm sure more than a few people have gone out and picked it up to see what the hub-bub was all about.

Posted by: Manda at February 25, 2006 03:54 AM

he already found a new publisher, actually...


Posted by: chris riordan at February 25, 2006 04:32 AM

Today's news didn't surprise me in the least. I think that Riverhead tarnished its reputation enough just by signing Frey in the first place, despite the big sales figures for AMLP.

Sure, there is going to be a certain curiousity factor connected with his next book (his third, and purportedly, according to Frey, his first non-memoir book of fiction), and that will probably translate into brisk sales during the first few weeks.

However, in the publishing world, credibility (or at least the illusion of it) is far more important than the sales of one book. Word is that many writers at Riverhead are embarrassed to be associated with the people who brought us "My Friend Leonard." I know that if I am Ana Marie Cox (the Wonkette blogger whose "Dog Days" is published by Riverhead), I probably have a sick feeling in my stomach seeing my book publicized by Riverhead right beside James Frey's (or worse, being obligated to appear with him at Riverhead P.R. events).

From a financial standpoint, maintaining Frey is a wash at best, and a liability realistically.

Posted by: David Cummings at February 25, 2006 07:13 AM

I was a drug user.
I was a criminal.
I was a drug user and a criminal.
I was a criminal and a drug user.

I looked at Leonard.
Leonard looked at me.
I approached Leonard to give him a hug.
Leonard approached me to give me a hug.
We approached each other to give each other a hug.

Sheesh, this is so....deep.

Posted by: David Cummings at February 25, 2006 07:19 AM


That was hilarious! I have bookmarked the Beast, and I am not someone who likes a lot of blogs.

Oh yes, Knopf. The same people who resurrected Bret Easton Ellis after Simon and Schuster dropped him. It all makes sense.

Posted by: David Cummings at February 25, 2006 07:38 AM

thank you, but it IS NOT A BLOG. it is a paper that doesn't charge you money to look at for free on the internet. it's a free paper, period. we are all broke. seriously. IT IS NOT A BLOG though. I can't stress that enough. You are obviously not the first person to mistake it as such. Thanks for the appreciation, though. it's almost as good as money!

Posted by: chris riordan at February 25, 2006 04:23 PM

"What happens then? I think he probably has to give at least some of it back."

It depends on the contract. But often when an author is required by contract to pay the publisher money, the company doesn't actually press it. On the other hands, sometimes they do. There's really no universal rule here. Which is fairly normal for the publishing business.

Posted by: Gary Farber at February 26, 2006 05:37 AM

Gary, it's my understanding (and this is from a pretty reliable source) that the advance for the two Riverhead books was one million dollars. Would they really just let him keep that much? I know it's all tied up in his place in the Hamptons, but still: that's a pretty good deal, in a money for nothing and the chicks for free kind of way.

Posted by: Dr. Frank at February 26, 2006 05:44 AM

When Bret Easton Ellis was dropped from Simon and Schuster back in 1991 (after pressure on S&S from NOW for his book "American Psycho," which NOW said was grotesquely violent toward women), he was allowed to keep all of the $300,000 advance that they had given him for AP. At the time, I didn't think that S&S would let Ellis keep all of it but they did. Furthermore, S&S didn't even demand that Ellis or Vintage Contemporaries (who won the second bidding war for AP) pay them back the sizable amount of money they had put into editing and promotion.

It's tough to say, but if Frey had a written contract with Riverhead, then I think that Riverhead is obligated to allow Frey to keep all of it. This is of course barring a stipulation of some kind ("contractee agrees not to embarrass Riverhead and/or its parent company....").

Posted by: David Cummings at February 26, 2006 07:26 AM

Wow. He's pathetic like a fox, then, maybe.

Posted by: Dr. Frank at February 26, 2006 03:28 PM

you realize that the success of fiction is not contingent on the quality of the writing, right? i admit, i never read AMLP. i saw it at Costco and liked the cover enough to go buy a bag of sprinkled cookies, but that was as far as i went with it. nonetheless, even the most banal and senseless writing can make it to the top of the best-sellers lists. aren't publishers mostly concerned with sales? shitty writing can still sell. and if it's just fiction, then who cares about content? certainly not the book-buying public not the publishers themselves. with that said, it's not that i love shite literature. i abhor it, actually. but i am accepting the reality of the situation: the mainstream accepts mediocrity. parallels between book tastes and music tastes can be drawn from there.

Posted by: Susie at February 27, 2006 09:53 PM

Yeah, Susie, that's why I was kind of surprised that they didn't stick with him, at least long enough to recoup some of the huge-ass advance. But I suppose they're also concerned with prestige and so forth. I bet other authors have complained about lameness by association. And I know there's a scramble to get his blurbs removed from new editions of people's books.

Still, as bad as Frey's books are (and I have read a few chunks of AMLP, and I could tell after around two sentences that it was lousy and phony) it's not like they're in a special class of badness. So in a way, it's laughable that "the industry" has suddenly come down with a case of integrity in this one specific case. But he screwed up and embarrassed a lot of powerful people, so I guess he had to pay, while Bill O'Reilly and The Rock and Jose Canseco get to keep their winnings *and* their publishing deals.

Posted by: Dr. Frank at February 28, 2006 12:42 AM

Ain't that the truth...

Posted by: David Cummings at February 28, 2006 05:13 AM