Wealth. Influence. Magnetism. Mystery. In twentieth century America, one man alone embodied all these qualities in their purest form. During a life which read like the wildest imaginings of a Hollywood scriptwriter, Howard Hughes – billionaire tycoon, pioneer aviator, playboy, eccentric and movie mogul – became a totem of fascination around the globe. In his twilight years, the mystery surrounding him intensified when he became a total recluse, hiding himself away in shady hotel suites for more than a decade. Some believed him to be dead; others thought he had gone crazy. Few really knew the truth – just as Hughes preferred.
The ambiguity surrounding him spawned one of the first modern media obsessions. Speculation abounded, from the business pages of broadsheets through international magazine articles down to the sidewalk opinion-makers. And unsurprisingly there were few books written about Hughes’ fascinating life – a life which was rumoured to be on the brink of ruin. So New York author and journalist Clifford Irving set out to do what no one else had done before.
In late 1970, Irving ran into an old friend and fellow scribe, Richard Suskind. The two men struck up a conversation about the legendary Hughes, whose recent shadowy globetrotting had caused a sensation in newspapers around the world. It was this conversation that gave Irving the idea to write the ‘autobiography’ of Howard Hughes. Skillfully convincing the publishing world that he had the direct input of Hughes himself, his colleagues and friends, Irving wrote his book, interweaving accurate research with outlandish fiction, and sold it to a publisher for a record advance of $1m, hitting headlines around the world…
But eventually the tall tale unravelled – the book was unmasked as a hoax. Irving went to prison and the sensational manuscript, described as ‘the most famous unpublished book of the century’, lay untouched for over 30 years – until now. For the first time, here is the incredible, unexpurgated life story of one of history’s most intriguing figures.
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