DOCUMENT: Celebrity, Investigation

A Million Little Lies

Exposing James Frey's Fiction Addiction

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James Frey Mug Shot Berrien County

James Frey Granville Police Report

James Frey Granville Mug Shot

James Frey Legal Threat Letter

Granville Police Denison Drug Investigation (Frey)

James Frey St. Joseph Reckless Driving

St. Joseph Accident Report (James Frey)

James Frey Letter To Readers

Surely, like anyone who lived in St. Joseph at the time of the accident, Frey knew that two girls had died in the crash. But for the fabulist's narrative purposes, Janie Hall needed to be thrown under that C&O locomotive.

After learning of the accident the following day, "I got blamed by her Parents and by her friends and by everyone else in that fucking hellhole," Frey claims. "If she hadn't lied and if I hadn't helped her, it would not have happened. If we hadn't gone to the Theater, she would not have gone on that date." Sure, a couple of mangled girls landed in a hospital morgue, but that's narrative gold in the hands of James Frey.

The car's driver was unhurt and everyone felt sorry for him. Instead, it was poor Jimmy Frey who became the object of St. Joseph's scorn:

I got taken down to the local Police Station and questioned. That was the way it worked there. Blame the fuck-up, feel sorry for the football Hero. Vilify one forever, forget the other had anything to do with it. I took a lot of punches for that bullshit, and every time I threw a punch back, and I threw one back every single time, I threw it back for her. I threw it back as hard as I fucking could and I threw it back for her.

Standing in that Hazelden shower, Frey wishes he could again smell Michelle, touch her hair, tell her he loves her because, "I did and I do and I never did it when she was still alive."

Frey's alternate reality, as you might have guessed, is not reflected in the final 16-page police report on the 1986 fatalities. There is no mention of him in the document, though several other St. Joseph High School students were questioned by investigators. No person interviewed said anything about Sanders going to the movies that evening. The chief police investigator, Dennis Padgett, told TSG, "I don't remember Mr. Frey. I don't recognize the name." Asked if a key witness like Frey could have been interviewed by him or other probers and not be referred to in the final report, Padgett answered, "Not typically, no."

While Sanders, who demonstrably was a real person, is another character--like Leonard or Lilly--who died before she could see Frey enjoy fame and wealth (or even visit his Big Jim Industries web site), her parents are still alive. And Bill and Marianne Sanders say that Frey created a meaningful relationship with their daughter where, the couple believes, one did not exist.

Sanders was a senior, Frey just a junior, so he deftly skipped a grade to better appropriate her family's tragedy. And since it would be hard to claim "Michelle" as his beautiful protector and only friend five years after arriving in town, Frey instead turns back the odometer and has her coming to his rescue at age 12, only months after he landed in that verdant Michigan "hellhole."

The Sanders family learned of "A Million Little Pieces" late last year when they returned to Michigan (they now live in New York) for a funeral. A relative had heard about the book via "Oprah" and told Marianne that they suspected the train accident described by Frey was the one that took Melissa's life.

Marianne began to read the book, but did not recognize many of the details surrounding her own daughter's death. "Everything that I believe he wrote, even about my daughter...was not an actual, the way the accident happened or anything," she told TSG. "I never heard his name in connection with it."

Sanders said that she did not think Frey's name ever came up in connection with Melissa's death and, "I don't believe that he was ever actually questioned in regard to the accident because he had nothing to do with it."

She disputed Frey's claim that he had always "been pleasant and polite" in the company of her and her husband. She could recall meeting him only once before Melissa's death and believed that Frey dropped off a condolence card after the accident. They may have been acquaintances, she said, and might have ridden on the same school bus.

As for driving Frey and her daughter, who was not a cheerleader, to the movies the night Melissa died, Sanders said that did not happen. "When I read that I figured he was taking license...he's a writer, you know, they don't tell everything that's factual and true." She added, "I just figured he embroidered a few things...I mean I'm sure not every single thing he said in there is gonna be true, do you think?"

In an e-mail exchange, Bill Sanders told TSG that on the night of the accident, a Saturday, "Janie stopped by and picked Melissa up. Melissa told me they were going out and she would be home around 12:00 midnight. I have never met Mr. Frey and I never drove him anywhere."

Asked about St. Joseph residents purportedly turning on Frey after the crash, Marianne Sanders replied, "No, I don't think that part's true at all." She added, "I never heard anything like that after it happened. As far as I know his name never came up in anything." TSG spoke with Sanders last month, a particularly tough time of the year for her family. Three years after Melissa's death, her twin brother Mark was killed in a New York auto accident. "It's very hard to lose children," she said.

In a Q&A section on Winfrey's web site, Frey recently answered a viewer's question about whether he ever spoke about the death of his high school "girl friend" with his parents or a Hazelden staff psychologist. "I discussed it a bit with my parents when it happened, but not that much. I have often kept the things that hurt me the most to myself. I don't know if that's because they hurt so much to talk about, or if I just want them to be mine and mine alone."

That would be one explanation.


When Oprah Winfrey decided to place her book club's coveted seal of approval on "A Million Little Pieces," she further cemented James Frey's place near the top of the publishing heap. At least in terms of sales, if not literary achievement. The book has reportedly sold more copies than any other title chosen by the TV star. He has embraced Winfrey with gusto, calling her selection of his book an "honor." Quite the opposite of the forearm shiver Jonathan Franzen, another contemporary New York author, gave Winfrey in 2001 when she picked his novel, "The Corrections," for her book club.

Frey's nonfiction memoir's roaring success (and that of its sequel "My Friend Leonard") has earned him millions of dollars and allowed for the kind of luxuries that few young authors ever see--a $2.55 million Manhattan apartment, an Amagansett summer house, and first-class travel. And, as silly as it sounds, Frey has become something of a literary rock star, attracting crowds at book signings that jam stores to capacity and prompt comparisons to established draws like David Sedaris and Dave Eggers.

He has written the screenplay for "A Million Little Pieces" and has said that the film is being co-produced by Brad Pitt and directed by Mark Romanek. Frey is more than happy to tick off the top-shelf Hollywood actors (some of whom he counts as friends) up for the role of him: Ryan Gosling, Tobey Maguire, Orlando Bloom, Josh Hartnett, and Jake Gyllenhaal. "Whoever they're gonna choose I'll be happy with. I'm much more worried with the studio staying true to the story than I am about who they put in it," Frey told Winfrey. Now in between books, he's working on a screenplay about the Hell's Angels for director Tony Scott.

At a packed appearance last month at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square (on his web site, Frey estimated the audience at 1200), he proudly told the crowd that "nobody who has been in either of the books has ever had a problem with anything I wrote, even when I didn't necessarily write good things about them." As for future plans, he said he was done writing memoirs. He told Publishers Weekly in an October interview that his next work, a novel, would be "a big, ambitious 500- or 600-page book about life in contemporary Los Angeles."

He noted, "I'm looking forward to showing people that I can write fiction."

Comments (12)

Being in recovery, I'm always looking for material on the subject. I found this book @ a yardsale @ 2 years ago & began reading it. I thought at 1st it was fascinating to read such detail of his exploits, yet something bothered me. How did he recall, w/ such detail, all these events? I recall SOME things I've done while under the influence. But not to the degree he did. It was as if he kept a journal. Believe me, NO drunk/dope fiend keeps a journal! It just seemed too implausible. Then a fellow recovery friend pointed out to me that the book HAD been exposed as fraudulant, along w/ it being on the Oprah list, then off. I ended up reselling the book, at a loss of @ .50! Nice failure. That's what addicts do.
This is a very blatant example of someone else, "O", leading the masses blindly. Instead of allowing our own common sense to persevere, which she did not either, there is now a massive pile of lemmings at the bottom of the cliff. The emperor has no clothes.
I would ask that the book was published in the Hungarian language? I've been to several shops in the area, but still could not find it anywhere. Online stores also have looked at but could not find it there either. Planned to prepare the Hungarian-language translation? If so, then what is the timetable?
besides, why is everyone so worked up over this NOW??? The book was exposed for a work of fiction shortly after it came out. All he had to do was put a disclaimer in the front saying that the book was loosely based on a true story, names & dates have been changed, etc. Oh well, it made for good publicity -I didn't buy the book, but I did borrow it so I coud read it myself - c'mon, who goes through a root canal with no anesthesia???
julimonster's comment is a shining example of the reactionary mindset that continues to afford Frey a writing career. Small details, like the original publishing date of the article and the fact that Frey is a lying sack of shiat, don't bother the likes of julimonster because, hey, it is old news after all. And in unrelated news, I had to shake my head in disbelief at what came up through one of the older links to Oprah's website that appears in this story: Instead of a typical gushing Oprah article about James Frey I was treated to a typical gushing Oprah article about Jennifer Hudson accompanied by comments from heartbroken and/or furious Oprah viewers who didn't get to see the entire show because of the Egyptians and their damn political strife. If I remember correctly, Julimonster was one of the commenters voicing her anguish that a silly little war, that may change the face of the Middle East and global relations as we know them, interrupted the time that is usually reserved for her and Oprah to share their girlfriend confidences about how, "...that's what junkies do...". Disclaimer: I, like James Frey, took artistic license with that last paragraph but the GIST of it is true and I will have my lawyers write the equivalent of a Cease and Desist letter to back up my claim, if need be.
Allow me to explain. The article you just read IS the exposure of this book as a work of fiction. Note how it is dated January 2006 and was published on The Smoking Gun, a web site known for exposing things. BTW the whole POINT of this article is that he MISREPRESENTED the book as factual. Your comment "all he had to do" is put a disclaimer on the book is tantamount to saying, all he had to do is not commit fraud and then people wouldn't have made such a big deal out of the fact that he committed fraud. Gee, really?
well, yeah, that's what junkies do.....
Honestly I blame the readers for making his trite piece o' crap famous. Read better novels people!
My favorite is the LEGAL THREAT letter where Singer BEGS for TSG not to publish it on this website. Of course, TSG does it anyway, LMAO.
After reading "A Million Little Pieces", I thought that Frey's writing was, though sometimes implausible, very raw and powerful. After finishing the book, I not only wanted to meet the man who survived these mind blowing experiences, but I would have loved to get a chance to chat with him. After reading this incredible article, I will never be able to look at James Frey's work in the same way again. TSG brings to my attention the fact that his book has no real sources except his own words; whereas this article has proof to back up every criticism. Though this doesn't detract from Frey's writing ability, it blurs the line between fact and fiction in his writing, and brings readers back to reality. I was considering reading the sequel - "My Friend Leonard" - but now, I realize that I have no reason to waste my time on more fiction that calls itself fact. To the brilliant writers at TSG, kudos!
wow, this is beyond terrible. get some respect and let james frey write. either way, he is an amazing writer.