About 1 700 readers ask for A Million Little Pieces refund

About 1 700 people asked to be reimbursed for buying James Frey’s largely fabricated best-selling memoir, A Million Little Pieces, a lawyer said as a judge approved a settlement with disgruntled readers.

United States District Judge Richard Holwell said on Friday that the settlement was “most fair, adequate and reasonable”. It offered a refund to anyone who bought the book before Frey’s falsehoods were acknowledged.

Although the book was a best-seller that exploded in sales after Oprah Winfrey chose it for her book club, only 1 729 readers came forward to benefit from the settlement, said Larry Drury, a Chicago lawyer for the plaintiffs.

In January 2006, the website the Smoking Gun revealed that Frey’s memoir of addiction and recovery contained numerous fabrications. Frey and his publisher then acknowledged that he had made up parts of the book.

Although Random House set aside $2,35-million in a fund to cover costs related to the lawsuits, advertisements in 962 newspapers and elsewhere drew only the 1 729 claims for reimbursement by the deadline, costing just $27 348.

Another $783 000 will be paid out in legal fees along with $432 000 in costs associated with publicising and carrying out the settlement.

The settlement also calls for roughly $180 000 to be divided among three charities: First Book, a non-profit organisation that gives children from low-income families a chance to read and own their first book; Hazelden addiction treatment centre and the American Red Cross.

As part of the deal, Random House agreed to include a warning in the book that not all portions of the book may be accurate.
In addition, an author’s note about the subject was to be included in copies of the book until this December.

Drury noted that 93 738 copies of the book were sold in the seven months after the controversy erupted.

“Amazingly, the book remained a best-seller for another 26 weeks,” he told Holwell.

Drury said Frey had received more than $4,4-million in royalties.

The defendants’ lawyers declined to comment.

Outside court, Drury said the message of the case was that “corporations need to be held accountable for their conduct”.

Evan Smith, another lawyer for the plaintiffs, said: “I also think publishers will think twice before labeling their book a memoir.”

Meanwhile, Frey is working on a new book, Bright Shiny Morning, slated for release in summer 2008. - Sapa-AP

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