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CNN Larry King Live
Interview With James Frey
Aired January 11, 2006 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, exclusive, the controversial book everyone is talking about, "A Million Little Pieces." The biggest non-fiction seller of last year. But is it some kind of fraud. Now, author James Frey's first interview on the sensational claims against his memoir of addiction and rehabilitation. He's here for the hour. We'll take your calls too, it's next on LARRY KING LIVE.
This is a story getting world-wide attention ever since Oprah Winfrey picked "A Million Little Pieces" to be her Book Club selection for October 2005. It went on to be the best selling book in non- fiction last year. Here's an update before we talk with James Frey from Kelly Wallace.
KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Larry. Questions were first raised about the book when it came out in 2003. It wasn't until an investigative Web site started poking around not too long ago that James Frey faced a firestorm of allegations, charges his memoir is more about fiction than fact.
(voice over): More intense scrutiny of the best selling memoirs started a few months ago after Oprah Winfrey selected it for her highly coveted book club. Author James Frey's mom was in the audience.
OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: Our next book is "A Million Little Pieces."
WALLACE: After Frey talked with Oprah about his days of addiction, crime and rehab.
WINFREY: At 23, James has no money, no job, no home and is wanted in three states.
WALLACE: Editors at The Smoking Gun investigative Web site said they got an e-mail asking they post a mug shot of Frey.
WILLIAM BASTONE, EDITOR, THESMOKINGGUN.COM: He was arrested 13 or 14 times and we could not find anything, so that piqued our interest.
WALLACE: And led to a six-week investigation by thesmokinggun.com which accuses Frey of fabricating significant parts of the book including many of his run-in with the law. Frey rejected those charges, saying on his Web site "Let the heaters hate and doubters doubt. I stand by my book and my life."
In a key part of the memoir, Frey claims he spent three months in an Ohio jail after hitting a police officer with his car and starting a melee with police during a night of boozing and crack smoking. Frey never specifies an exact location but indicates this happened near where he went to college in Granville, Ohio.
The Granville police department, which only found one record regarding Frey, tells a different story.
DAVID DUDGEON, GRANVILLE POLICE SERGEANT: His right front time pulled up onto the curb.
WALLACE: Granville Police Sergeant, David Dudgeon, says Frey was arrested for driving under the influence and released on a $733 bond.
DUDGEON: He was polite and cooperative and there's nothing in the report that indicates he was combative, argumentative or anything like that.
WALLACE: The local sheriff also tells CNN there is no record of Frey ever being incarcerated at the county jail. Editors at The Smoking Gun said Frey told them he embellished some details in the book.
BASTONE: To me, it's misstatements and fabrications and it's embellishments that he never previously acknowledged.
WALLACE (on camera): The book's publisher, Doubleday and Anchor Books, a division of Random House is standing fully behind Frey and the book. We asked if the company would be looking into these allegation. A spokeswoman telling us today, the company does not see it necessary to investigate. Larry.
KING: Thanks, Kelly Wallace and The Smoking Gun Internet article was headlined, "The Man Who Conned Oprah." Just by way of staying on top of this, thesmokinggun.com Web site is part of Court TV. Court TV is half owned by Time Warner, which is CNN's parent company. Also the movie rights for "A Million Little Pieces" has been purchased by Warner Brothers. It, too, is part of Time Warner. What's your side, James?
JAMES FREY, AUTHOR, "A MILLION LITTLE PIECES": My side is I wrote a memoir. I never expected the book to come under the type of scrutiny that it has. A memoir literally means my story, a memoir is a subjective retelling of events.
KING: But it is supposed to be factual events. The memoir is a form of biography.
FREY: Yes. Memoir is within the genre of non-fiction. I don't think it's necessarily appropriate to say I've conned anyone. The book is 432 pages long. The total page count of disputed events is 18, which is less than five percent of the total book. You know, that falls comfortably within the realm of what's appropriate for a memoir.
KING: James, with the kind of incredible life you've had, why embellish anything?
FREY: I mean, I've acknowledged that there were embellishments in the book, that I've changed things, that in certain cases things were toned up, in certain cases things were toned down, that names were changed, that identifying characteristics were changed.
There's a great debate about memoir and about what should be most properly served, the story or some form of journalistic truth. Memoirs don't generally come under the type of scrutiny that mine has.
KING: People reading a memoir expect it to be a true story, whether it's Alan Alda doing a memoir of his life or James Frey doing a memoir of his, that the facts written down as they happened or their perception of their happening.
FREY: It's an individual's perception of what happened in their own life. This is my recollection of my life. A lot of the events I was writing about took place between 15 and 25 years ago. A lot of the events took place while I was under the influence of drugs and alcohol. I still stand by my book. I still stand by the fact that it's my story. It's a truthful retelling of the story.
KING: Are you surprised at the furor?
FREY: I am surprised. I've been surprised over and over again throughout this whole process. I've been surprised by the success of the book. I've been surprised by the reaction to the book. I've been surprised by the furor related to the book, especially considering I acknowledged I had that changed things.
KING: You did at the beginning?
FREY: I have at various points all along the course of the publication and promotion of the book.
KING: Did you tell Oprah that?
FREY: I don't remember specifically what I told Oprah, I certainly told her producers that, you know, things were altered in the book, that I made changes to the book, that sometimes those changes were made in order to protect the identities of specific individuals.
Sometimes things were changed because they were too ridiculous. Sometimes things were changed for simple reasons of efficiency. There's one example of a change made where I talk about a gash I had, a cut that I received. In the book, I say I cut my cheek. In reality, what happened is when I fell down, my lower teeth tore up my lip and penetrated it in two separate places.
I received the stitches I talked about receiving, but in the book I say, I cut my cheek.
FREY: Because it's a lot easier than saying over and over again that I cut the area between my lower lip and my chin. You know, I believe that the essential truth of the event remains, there it's a large cut on my face
KING: Are you saying that essential truth of this book, you stand by 100 percent?
FREY: Absolutely. The book is about drug and alcohol addiction.
KING: Of which you were addicted to both?
FREY: Yes. Nobody's disputing was a addict or alcoholic. Nobody was disputing that I spent a significant period of time in a treatment center. Five pages at the beginning of the book and five pages at the end of the book are the only parts that don't take place in a treatment center.
KING: Have you contacted Oprah?
FREY: I have not spoken to Oprah, I've spoken to her producers
KING: Since all this broke?
FREY: I have not spoken to Oprah.
KING: Has she called you or attempted to call you?
KING: Do you think you owe her a call?
FREY: I think if Oprah wants to talk to me, she will let me show she wants to talk to me. Her producers have been very, very supportive. I can't speak for Oprah and I'm not a spokesperson for Harpo.
KING: We will go to break. And here is Oprah discussing the book.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: The book I'm choosing kept me up for two nights straight, honest-to-goodness. I could not sleep. I could not sleep, people! I was like reading, reading, 2:00 in the morning, I'm going to do the show, I was up because I couldn't put it down, it's that good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: I'm going to give James Frey a chance to answer some of the things brought up by "The Smoking Gun." But first, Random House denies reports its offering a special refund on the book. It says "contrary to erroneous published reports, Random House is not offering a special refund on "A Million Little Pieces. It is a long-standing policy to direct consumers who want a refund back to their retail place of purchase."
And also there's a story around that you offered this around to a lot of publishers as fiction and it was turned down and then you changed it. Is that true?
FREY: We initially shopped the book as a novel and it was turned down by a lot of publishers as a novel or as a non-fiction book. When Nan Talese purchased the book, I'm not sure if they knew what they were going to publish it as. We talked about what to publish it as. And they thought the best thing to do was publish it as a memoir.
KING: Why did you shop it as a novel if it wasn't?
FREY: I think of the book as working in sort of a tradition -- a long tradition of what American writers have done in the past, people like Hemingway and Fitzgerald and Kerouac and Charles Bukowski.
KING: But they all said fiction.
FREY: Yes, they did. And at the time of their books being published, the genre of memoir didn't exist. I mean, the genre of memoir is one that's very new and the boundaries of it had not been established yet.
KING: But you will agree, if you went into a bookstore and it said memoirs, you would think non-fiction?
FREY: Yes. I mean, it's a classification of non-fiction. Some people think it's creative non-fiction. It's generally recognized that the writer of a memoir is retailing a subjective story. That it's one person's event. I mean, I still stand by the essential truths of the book.
KING: You get incredible reviews: "A frenzied electrifying description of an experience. We finish "A Million Little Pieces" like miners lifted out of a collapsed shaft: exhausted, blackened, oxygen-starved but alive, incredible, mesmerizing, heart-rendering. An intimate, vivid and heartfelt memoir. Can Frey be the greatest writer of his generation?" That must blow your mind to see all that and now have this happen?
FREY: Yes. I mean, it has blown my mind. And to a certain extent, it's surprised me. Again, a very, very small portion of the book is being disputed.
KING: Now let's get into some of those disputes. And you said during the break, you won't write about yourself again?
FREY: No. I'll absolutely never write about myself again.
KING: OK. The book -- Frey says he spent three months in an Ohio jail for various offenses. "The Smoking Gun" says: the closest Frey ever came to a jail cell was a few unshackled hours he once spent in an Ohio police headquarters waiting for a buddy to post $733 cash bond. True?
FREY: I mean, I don't discuss being in a jail cell in this book. In this book, you know, like I said, 420 of the 432 pages of it take place in a treatment facility.
KING: You never discussed being in a jail cell?
FREY: I mean, we talk about being in a jail cell but the three months that's under dispute there is part of the second book, called "My friend Leonard," which has a very large disclaimer at the front of it. I mean, we decided with the second book, to run a disclaimer because of some of the issues that had come up through the publication of the first book.
KING: Do you think you've had some memory loss or do you think you blacked out some things?
FREY: I mean, certainly. I had a long drug and alcohol history. My memory's very subjective. Everyone's memory is subjective. If in three weeks we were both interviewed about what went on here tonight, we would both probably have very, very different stories.
KING: Frey writes vividly about arrests in Ohio in 1992, claims he hit a cop with his car, got into a fight with the police, was charged with felony, DUI and possession of narcotics. The Web site maintains you ran a car onto a curb, never struck a cop, no record of any police melee, no record of any crack and at the time of the arrest, there was no such thing as felony DUI on the books on Ohio.
FREY: I mean again, we're dealing with a very subjective memory. "The Smoking Gun" certainly seems to have done a lot of specific research related to it.
There are, I think, some things in "The Smoking Gun" that don't add up for me. One of them is they posted a police report with somebody else's name on it. The other is they -- they dispute -- in the book I talk about being the subject of a cocaine investigation in that town, which they dispute, yet they post documents which list me as the primary target of an investigation like that.
KING: What are your feelings about "The Smoking Gun?"
FREY: I think "The Smoking Gun" were doing their jobs. This is what they do. I don't have any bad feelings. I feel like if I really had something to hide from "The Smoking Gun," I would have never spoken to them. I did spoke to them. I readily said, you know, there are certain parts of this book that have been changed. If I was really hiding things and trying to deceive people, I would have never done that.
KING: As we go to break, the editor of "The Smoking Gun," William Bastone was a guest on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING" today and Soledad O'Brien asked him for his take on the story of the girl and the train accident. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WILLIAM BASTONE, EDITOR, THE SMOKING GUN: It's about two percent true. He was in an automobile. He was driving out of a parking lot, across a sidewalk and he immediately pulled into a no-parking zone and rolled the right front tire of his car up on to the sidewalk.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: What about the melee, the arrest?
BASTONE: Didn't happen. The closest to an intoxicating agent that was in his car, he claimed there was a bag of crack. It actually was a half bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer that was in between the bucket seats of a 1989 Mercury. No crack, no melee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FREY: ... it was a tragic, tragic accident. I mean, I think, this is again a case where an incredibly minute portion of the book, which doesn't really have anything to do with the central message of the book, or what the book is about, is being picked apart. You know, it's a memoir, it's a selective recollection of my life. You know, like I said earlier, last, you know, approximately 18 pages of a 432- page document are being disputed.
KING: To your knowledge, was it fact-checked?
FREY: I don't know how specifically it was fact-checked, you know, when you're changing names and changing identities to protect people. I believe the publisher usually considers that good enough. I can't necessarily speak specifically for what their policies are.
KING: Did you, frankly, embellish a criminal past?
FREY: I mean, Larry, I've acknowledged I've changed things. I acknowledged to the Smoking Gun that I changed things. I think you get into a very sticky situation, where on one hand they're posting documents saying that I was an alleged cocaine dealer, and they match up pretty closely with what I'm talking about, and on the other hand -- and they post two mugshots of at least two events where I've been arrested, and on the other hand, they say that I'm a lily-white kid from the suburbs. You know, I had a very, very troubled past.
But the primary focus of the book is not crime. The primary focus of the book is drug addiction and alcoholism, and that's why the book takes place in a treatment center. You know, it's a book about getting better, you know. It's a book about dealing with problems. It's book about redemption and pain and family.
KING: You a bad guy?
FREY: Am I a bad guy?
KING: Were you a bad guy?
FREY: I mean, I don't think I was a bad guy. I think I was a flawed person, you know. I think to this day, I'm a flawed person, you know. I've made a lot of mistakes over the course of my life, and I'll continue to make mistakes over the course of my life. You know, I think I'm a real person, and I am a person who feels and who does the best he can.
KING: Then what do you make of all this? What are your feelings as a writer? What do you think of your future?
FREY: I mean, like I said, I'm certainly never going to write another book about myself. This has been a very difficult week for me, you know. I've been shocked by the furor that has erupted. You know, I've been shocked by the scrutiny paid to the book. I don't know if any memoir in the history of publishing has ever been so, so carefully vetted so long after its publication. That's what comes with selling a lot of copies and being part of Oprah's Book Club. That's what comes with success, and it's been incredibly difficult.
KING: Oprah's Book Club has changed publishing. Because she can affect a book, therefore make a book famous, and the author gets the break of that and pays the price for it.
FREY: Yeah, I mean, it was a huge honor being chosen to be part of her book club.
KING: It sure was.
FREY: And you know, there's a cost that comes with success. And if this is the cost for me, then I'll pay it. I mean, what's really important to me, more than success or sales, is the impact I feel the book has had on the lives of readers. You know, it is a book about drug addiction and alcoholism. There is no dispute as to whether I was a drug addict or an alcoholic, whether I spent time in a treatment facility. And that's what the book's about. And it's helping a lot of people. It's affecting a lot of lives, and I don't think details that are being disputed at this point will change the effect that it's having, at least I hope not, because...
KING: Yes, you have to hope that somebody doesn't say, this book helped me and now I'm down on the author, down on the book and down on what it did for me.
FREY: I mean, there's no way that people would believe the central message of the book, which is about drug addiction and alcoholism, if I hadn't had the experiences, and if I wasn't still living sober 13 years later. I hope, you know, that readers don't desert the book, because like I said, in my opinion, a very small percentage of it is being disputed.
KING: Is "My Friend Leonard" a follow-up to it?
FREY: Yeah, "My Friend Leonard" is a follow-up to it. It's a book that takes place over the course of about five or six years.
KING: And it has a disclaimer?
FREY: Yeah. I mean, after some of the issues with "A Million Little Pieces" were brought up, my editor and I discussed whether we should run a disclaimer, and we thought we should.
In the memoir genre, the writer generally takes liberties. You know, you take liberties with time because you're compressing time a lot. You take liberties with events and sequence of events. The important aspect of a memoir is to get at the essential truth of it.
KING: Is Nan Talese, whose imprint is famous, standing by you?
KING: Are they going to publish another book of yours?
FREY: I've switched publishers to Riverhead. I have a huge amount of respect for Nan. And I admire her greatly. A second -- a different publisher published my second book, and they are going to be publishing my next two books.
KING: And you're already contracted to do them?
KING: Are you in the process of writing the third one?
FREY: I haven't started yet. I am going to start relatively soon.
KING: Do you think this will affect you?
FREY: Of course this is going to affect me. You know, but I hope my readership remains focused on what's going on here.
KING: What, James, do it all over, what would you change?
FREY: I don't know if I would change anything, Larry, you know, I...
KING: You would submit this manuscript?
FREY: I would submit this manuscript. I mean, like I said, I've made mistakes over the course of my life. And I think part of growing up and becoming a better person is learning from the mistakes you make. And, you know, you can't change the past. I know that more than anyone. And you know, I'm a person who has, over the course of his life, always learned from his mistakes. And I hope I can continue to.
KING: We're going to take a break. When we come back, we'll take calls for James Frey, and later we'll meet his mother. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WINFREY: James, how did you feel when you hit number one on "The New York Times" best-sellers?
FREY: It's been a surreal experience. I mean, from the moment you called me -- I don't know if you remember the call, but I -- it was a stunning, shocking, awesome phone call. And ever since that call, it's been sort of one incredible thing after another.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with James Frey, the author of The New York Times bestseller "A Million Little Pieces," the number one non-fiction bestseller of 2005, Oprah's selection for the month of October.
He is also the author of "My Best Friend Leonard," the follow up book. "A Million Little Pieces" is available in trade paperback. "My Best Friend Leonard" is in hard cover. Oprah selected it as her book club in October, rather for the best of October 2005. His mother, Lynn, will be joining us shortly, and he said, if he had to do it all over again, he would do it again the same way. Might you write fiction in the future?
KING: And say it is fiction?
FREY: Yes. Again, I don't think it's fair to classify this "Million Little Pieces" as fiction at all. It's a memoir. A very small portion is in dispute.
KING: You were willing to sell it as fiction so it might have been published as fiction. One of those publishers might have said, OK, I'll do it as fiction.
FREY: They might have, but they didn't. But they didn't. To be honest, I still stand by the book as being the essential truth of my life. I'll stand by that idea until the day I die.
KING: How did you get into drugs?
FREY: I always felt things I was uncomfortable with. I think that's the case with most drug addicts. You feel things you're uncomfortable with and learn drugs and alcohol can make those things go away. So you use them.
Often the drugs and alcohol fuel the feelings which makes you need the drugs and alcohol more.
KING: What came first, liquor or drugs?
KING: Is that fairly common, alcohol, one leads to the other?
FREY: I think it's different with every person. Every person has their own story.
KING: How did you get over it? FREY: I went to treatment, you know. I went to drug and alcohol treatment, which is what this book is all about. That's what 422 of the 432 pages are about, going to drug and alcohol treatment center to deal with addiction.
As I've said and I'll continue to say, this is the true story of what I went through there.
KING: Did you know The Smoking Gun was going to release this?
FREY: I knew The Smoking Gun was going to release something. I didn't know what they were going to release. I spoke to The Smoking Gun on one than one occasion.
KING: Explained it to them as you've explained it to me?
FREY: The Smoking Gun is very very clear about what I said to them.
KING: Did they present your thoughts fairly?
FREY: I mean, I think journalists always go into a story with a story. They often take what people in the public eye say and they make it fit what their story is. You know, part of the tricky part about what I said to The Smoking Gun is a lot of it was initially considered off the record.
FREY: Yes. And then it became on the record.
KING: By their decision.
KING: So why aren't you angry?
FREY: Because I said what I said and I take responsibility for my life. I take responsibility for who I am. That's what I've always done. That's who I am. I would be a liar if I didn't.
KING: Can this incident cause you to fall back into the area of drugs or liquor? Might be logical.
FREY: I mean, it's been a trying week, absolutely. It's been a trying, trying week. I've been fine getting through the week. I've been through bad --
KING: No temptation?
FREY: Of course there is temptation. Whenever you feel anything greatly, there is temptation. I'm getting through the week and I'll get through the week and I'll be fine.
KING: To Carmel, New York. Hello. CALLER: Hello. I would like to know why The Smoking Gun focused on such a small, insignificant portion of the book and completely ignored the tremendous and wonderful accomplishment that James made by recovering from this terrible addiction?
KING: What do you think? You'd have to guess.
FREY: I can't speak for the smoking gun. I think they've done a lot of speaking this week. I can't speak for them at all. I think part of what they do is dig up documents related to people's lives. Those are the documents they dug up.
KING: You have legal medical records from this period, right? This isn't all off the top of your head?
FREY: I have all sorts of things. I have a journal that you're required to keep as part of your stay there. I have a separate journal that was a journal I kept for myself. I have therapists' notes, clinical diagnosis notes, intake papers and discharge papers, all sorts of stuff. I used that as a guide to write the book.
One of the things I think is interesting is there are 200 pages of recreated conversations in the book, but people haven't been questioning those because, in that area, it's understood that it's a memoir, it's a recreation, it's my subjective recreation of my own life.
In every case, I did the best I could to recreate my life, according to my memory of it. When I had supporting documents, I used them.
KING: It does seem silly, someone writing his whole life, bearing everything out, to deliberately fabricate a small portion of it a small portion of it for amount of days in jail to prove what?
FREY: I don't know. I mean, I think -- I don't know. I wasn't trying to prove anything. I wrote the book to tell the story of my life. I hoped that the book would help people in similar situations deal with their lives.
It's a book about dealing with drug addiction and alcoholism, and I hope it's helping people, you know.
KING: Do you think Oprah might be forgiving, that she'll say something publicly?
FREY: I can't conjecture to say what Oprah may or may not.
KING: She was awfully nice to you.
FREY: I've had a wonderful experience with Oprah Winfrey. I'll cherish the experience I had with her the rest of my life. The people that work with her are incredible people. The producers have been very very supportive of me throughout the course of being part of her show and throughout the course of this.
I can't speak for them in any way whatsoever.
KING: Back with more of James Frey. More of your phone calls and then we'll meet his mother. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BASTONE: If suddenly the defense is suddenly now we have a memoir defense to basically explain away how you fabricate stuff and how you place yourself in the middle of incidents, which, you know, this incident led two girls -- 17-year-old girls ended up on a slab in a morgue, a hospital morgue.
But for him, for his memoir or whatever he calls it, that's narrative gold, to be spun for a beneficial purpose. Yes, I'd say, "OK, the publisher can spin it, memoir all this and that." To me, it's misstatements and its fabrications and its embellishments that he never previously acknowledged.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Comment, James.
FREY: I don't want to get into commenting on what Bill Bastone says on other television shows. I stand by the essential truth of my book. The book's about drug addiction and alcoholism.
KING: Do you fear that people will question other things in the book, based on this? In other words, if he fabricated page 211, how do I know on page 311?
FREY: Of course they are. That's something I'm going to have to deal with from this point forward and something I've been dealing with since the initial publication of the book.
KING: Did you ever try to expunge any records?
FREY: At points we've tried to expunge records. I never knew I'd be in this position. I never knew what I would do for a large part of my life. You know, at a certain point I thought if I couldn't make a career as a writer, I'd try to be a teacher or potentially try to be a drug and alcohol counselor and help people. You know, like a lot of people, we made attempts to expunge records when we could.
KING: Do you kind of wish now it was published as a novel?
FREY: I can't go back and change the past.
KING: Just as a wish?
FREY: I still feel very, very comfortable calling it a memoir. KING: Ontario, Oregon, hello.
CALLER: James, I do admire you for choosing to stay sober and wish you the best. My question to you is, as a recovering addict, I wonder how inspired should I be now after using your book as a tool towards recovery?
FREY: As I said, the essential truth of the book, which is about drug and alcohol addiction is there. I couldn't have written about what I write about if I hadn't gone through it. You know, the emotional truth is there.
I have remained sober for 13 years, the way I said I had or that I have. And I think I'll remain sober the rest of my life.
KING: Do you think you might use this in future writing?
FREY: I have no idea what I'll use in future writing. Right now, I just want to get through this.
KING: Lost any friendships over this?
FREY: People have been amazingly supportive. I've gotten hundreds of e-mails from readers. I've gotten e-mails from friends and families. People have been amazingly supportive.
KING: How about your publisher?
FREY: My publishers have been incredibly supportive. You know, I think they feel the same way that I do, that this is a memoir.
KING: You keep saying that, but a memoir is accepted as fact. I mean, if I see memoir, I accept it as a person's memory of incidents or things in their life. I wrote a memoir. I may not have been exactly right, but it was my memory of incidents.
FREY: I don't think -- I think you could probably find people who would dispute every memoir that was ever published. And a lot of them have been disputed. When Jerzy Kosinski's "Painted Bird" came out and became a big success several years afterwards, people said, "You know what? Jerzy Kosinski never went through the Holocaust." It's happened with a number of recent memoirs. It tends to happen with a lot of the more high-profile memoirs.
KING: And Jerzy killed himself. I'm not suggesting -- Mondovi, Wisconsin, hello.
CALLER: James, I love your book and I fully support you. Do you think Oprah will support you, too?
FREY: Thank you very much. I can't conjecture to say what Oprah's going to do or not going to do. I'll always cherish the experience I had with Oprah and with her producers and I'll never forget it.
KING: Oprah, by the way, to reiterate, has not issued a statement as yet. When we come back, Lynne Frey, James' mother will join us. Don't go away.
KING: We're back. When the announcement was made that James Frey's book was the Oprah pick book of October, his mother, Lynne, who's with us now, was in the audience at the Oprah show that afternoon. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: "A Million Little Pieces." "A Million Little Pieces" by James Frey.
LYNNE FREY, MOTHER OF JAMES FREY: That's my son.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: How did you know be there?
L. FREY: Well, James called and he knew one of my dreams was to just be in the audience.
KING: You had no idea it would...
L. FREY: ... None. I thought I was there for William Faulkner book club. And then Chris Rock and LeBron James were on, and they happened to be people I like.
KING: What's your reaction, Lynne, to this whole fraud story?
L. FREY: The fraud story is very sad for us. So many people stand behind us, our friends, James' friends, disappointed that it happened. I don't believe it. I believe in James...
KING: He said there's a small portion of it that...
L. FREY: Right. But the book stands on its own. I will tell you about a phone call I got last night. At 11:30, the phone rang and it was a parole officer somewhere, and the parole officer said I know what's going on. He said, I just want to tell you that we uses James' book with our ...
L. FREY: Paroles, and it's making a wonderful difference. So I have to put the other thing aside and believe in all those people who it has made a difference for.
KING: Are you angry at The Smoking Gun?
L. FREY: They have a job to do. I'm disappointed in them but I'm so proud of James and what he has accomplished I have to put that aside.
KING: Do you expect to hear from Oprah?
L. FREY: I don't know.
KING: What was it like for you to go through what you went through when James was going through what he went through?
L. FREY: It was a challenge for our whole family. We got the call in the middle of the night.
KING: Did you know he was into drugs?
L. FREY: I knew he was into things. He had gotten into some trouble, but if you've ever had a child who's been on drugs, and you go to the airport to pick him up and he's covered with blood and his teeth are broken and he reeks of alcohol, I would hope no one would go through that again.
Then we took him -- we found where we were going to take him for rehab, and they did the intake, and I said, OK, his dad and I said -- his brother was there, we said, we'll walk you down to the hall to where you're going, and the intaker office said, we will take James, and you'll go out the front door.
That had to be one of the saddest days of my life.
KING: Were you married then?
FREY: No. I wasn't married. Didn't have a girlfriend.
KING: You've since married and have a child?
FREY: Yes. I'm married, have a great wife who's been great through this. We have a one-year-old daughter in New York City.
KING: Do you feel you've let your mother down a little?
FREY: You know, like I said before and like I'll keep saying, I stand by the essential truth of my book.
KING: Do you think in life you let your mother down?
FREY: I've let my mother down, many, many times in my life. That's one of the things I write about in the book, how addiction affects families and how addiction destroys families, how at least one family you know, dealt with it together, and grew stronger and closer because of it.
KING: Why was there so much violence associated with you? We hear about drug addicts a lot. Why so much violence? Broken teeth, blood?
FREY: That was just an accident I had, where I was ...
KING: Did you get in fights?
FREY: I've been in fights in my life. I'm not one who seeks out being in a fight. I probably haven't been in a fight in years. My teeth were broken because I had an accident where I fell and I broke my teeth and hurt myself.
KING: Do you ever worry, Lynne, about him going back?
L. FREY: Never.
L. FREY: Nope. Because I know he's conquered this and I know he can do it. He's an example for himself and millions of people.
KING: Do you worry these developments could send him back? This is a rough week.
L. FREY: This is big. This has been a difficult week, but I think James is strong enough and is committed and, no.
KING: So you have no question, no question of your faith in him?
L. FREY: No.
KING: No question he wouldn't go back to the way things were?
L. FREY: His dad, his brother, and I are united. You know what, we're stronger because of what's happened. We're a strong family unit and we believe in James, and, no, I don't think he will.
KING: Back with more of James Frey and his mother, Lynn, right after this.
KING: Lynn is carrying some sort of coin. What is that?
L. FREY: This is the medallion we got when we went to the family program for James. If you completed the program, we each sponsored each other in Addicts, in the program. This is what we got at the end and it is always with me. It never is not with me, in my pocket, my purse all the time, because it reminds me of what we've been through.
KING: Did you know he could write?
L. FREY: Yes.
KING: Because he didn't know it until after all this.
L. FREY: Well, I'm the mom.
KING: What did you think when you read it?
L. FREY: It was very difficult for us to read it because we lived it, and then to go back and read what we had lived was very challenging. Bob read it first, I read it second.
KING: Your husband?
L. FREY: My husband. Then we called James and I thought his writing style was brilliant. I knew if it was published that our hearts would be hanging out there for people to peck at but we didn't care because we believe in him and we believe in the book.
KING: Are you an only son?
FREY: I have an older brother, a schoolteacher in Minnesota.
KING: Doesn't write?
FREY: He writes music. He's a musician and teaches at a school for the arts.
KING: Is he supportive of you?
FREY: Absolutely. I spoke to my brother a couple times today.
KING: I have about a minute left, James. What would you say to people, your readers?
FREY: I hope the emotional truth of the book resonate with them. I couldn't have written it if I hadn't been through a lot of the things I talk about. You know, it's a memoir. It's an imperfect animal. I don't think it's necessarily -- I don't think it should be held up and scrutinized the way a perfect non-fiction document would be or a newspaper article.
KING: I'm going to hold the show a little longer because I understand we have Oprah on the phone. Let's see what she has to say. Are you there, my friend?
WINFREY: Hello, Larry, how are you?
KING: Hello, dear one, how are you doing?
WINFREY: I'm good. Watching James and Lynne. Hi, James. Hi, Lynne.
FREY: Hi, Oprah.
WINFREY: I wanted to say because everyone's been asking me to release a statement. I first wanted to hear what James had to say and I didn't want to have that colored by any personal conversation that I had.
As he said, he's had many conversations with my producers, who do fully support him and obviously we support the book because we recognize that there have been thousands and hundreds of thousands of people whose lives have been changed by this book.
So the truth is this. I read and recommend books based on my connection with the written word and its message. And, of course, I am disappointed by this controversy surrounding "A Million Little Pieces," because I rely on the publishers to define the category that a book falls within and also the authenticity of the work.
So, I'm just like everybody else. I go to the bookstore. I pick out a book I love. If it says memoir, I know that -- that maybe the names and dates and the times have been compressed, because that's what a memoir is.
And I feel about "A Million Little Pieces" that although some of the facts have been questioned -- and people have a right to question, because we live in a country that lets you do that, that the underlying message of redemption in James Frey's memoir still resonates with me. And I know that it resonates with millions of other people who have read this book and will continue to read this book.
And, you know, one of the things James says in the book, for all the people who are going through any kind of addiction, is to hold on. And I just wanted to -- you know, I have been calling this number and it's been busy, trying to get through to say to all those people out there who have received hope from reading this book, keep holding on, because the essence of that, I don't doubt.
Whether or not the cars' wheels rolled up on the sidewalk or whether he hit the police officer or didn't hit the police officer is irrelevant to me. What is relevant is that he was a drug addict who spent years in turmoil, from the time he was 10 years old, drinking and -- and tormenting himself and his parents.
And, out of that, stepped out of that history to be the man that he is today, and to take that message to save other people and allow them to save themselves. That's what's important about this book and his story.
KING: One quick thing, Oprah. So, therefore, you hold him no ill will, have no less regard and still recommend the book?
WINFREY: Yes. Yes.
What I think is, is, this is going to open up the discussion for publishers. And you know, as you know, I recommend books and have been for a long time. And, for me, the bigger question is, what does this mean for the larger publishing world in the entire -- in this memoir category, because, as James was saying earlier, this is a new category?
And I feel that, you know, that this discussion will be furthered by the so-called controversy. To me, it seems to be much ado about nothing, because if you have read the book, as James has said here, that I don't know what percentage.
But so much of the story, the majority of the story is inside the clinic. And so whether he -- I think the next book, which I have not read, read, James, my friend Leonard (ph), is -- is more about the months, the time he spent in jail. But -- but that, to me, is irrelevant in this story.
KING: Well, Oprah, I really appreciate you calling. And I know -- do you want to say something, James? FREY: I admire you tremendously and thank you very much for your support. And, you know, it's -- I'm still incredibly honored to be associated with you, and I will for the rest of my life. Thank you.
KING: So, it's still an Oprah recommend, right?
WINFREY: Well, I certainly do recommend it for all for -- well, for all of the people out there.
You know what? I was really touched by the woman who called, I think it was from Carmel...
WINFREY: ... who said, as an addict, what do I do now? What do I -- does this -- is this true?
If you're an addict whose life has been moved by this story and you feel that what James went through was able to -- to help you hold on a little bit longer, and you connected to that, that is real. That is real. And it's -- it's irrelevant discussing, you know, what -- what happened or did not happen to the police.
KING: Be well, Oprah. Thanks for calling in.
WINFREY: Thank you, James. Thank you, James, and Lynne, and you, too, Larry, my friend.
L. FREY: Thank you, Oprah. We love you. Thank you.
KING: Be well, dear.
We ran over. Thank you all very much.
FREY: Thank you very much for having us.
KING: Anderson, sorry we cut into your time there.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Man, that was a fascinating hour, Larry. KING: Unbelievable.
COOPER: Yes. Did -- I mean, you have written a memoir.
What is your take on all this?
KING: Well, I -- in memoirs, you are working on recollection. Usually, your memory sometimes -- you know, I mean, I might say that I started on this radio station -- I'm pretty good at things like dates and places -- in May. It might have been June. I'm pretty sure it was May.
I know that the first famous person I interviewed, let's say, was Bobby Darin. Now, I have -- that's 49 years ago. Now, maybe it was Danny Thomas, you know? And someone might write and say, you know, it was Danny Thomas before Bobby Darin. And I might say, I could have sworn it was Bobby Darin. So, that could happen.
COOPER: Do you think this is going to impact book sales of the book?
KING: I think Oprah's call will send them up. I think her impact is enormous. And, if there was a question, her solidifying, because she hadn't made a statement until tonight, I think -- what do you think?
COOPER: Oh, I...
KING: Her impact is enormous.
COOPER: Her impact is -- I mean, absolutely. The fact that she's still -- still supporting the book. I'm wondering if, actually, this is actually going to, in some way, help book sales.
KING: You know, in this culture, one never knows.
It might, because you could put a sign up in a store, this is the book you have heard all about that Oprah continues to recommend. She recommended it last October. She continues to recommend it now. I don't think that's predictable, but it's an incredible story.
COOPER: It is. And I know it's the number-one book right now on Amazon.com. I have read it. I'm sure most of the people in our audience have read it as well. This will be someone we will, of course, continue to follow.
KING: And, again, I apologize for running over.
COOPER: Larry, I was watching closely. I -- if you had cut Oprah off, I would have gotten annoyed.
KING: That would have been funny.
COOPER: All right, Larry.
KING: I will bet there's one guy in Atlanta saying, why did he -- why did he run over?
COOPER: Are you kidding? Even my mom, who watches, was happy that I got cut off -- are you kidding, for Oprah?
COOPER: All right, Larry.
KING: A.C. 360 -- A.C. 350 is next.
COOPER: That's right, 345, maybe, we will say.
KING: Three forty-five. OK.
COOPER: Larry, thanks very much -- an amazing hour.
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