Gay Talese's forthcoming book The Voyeur's Motel tells the allegedly true story of Gerald Foos, a Colorado motel owner and voyeur who claimed to have conducted "research" on human sexuality by spying on the sex lives of his guests through strategically placed ceiling gratings that let him covertly watch them from the motel's attics.
A long excerpt from the book was published in April in the New Yorker, painting a picture of a meticulous, profoundly immoral man who kept careful notes on the decades' worth of sex he'd spied upon.
But when Washington Post journalists checked into the most basic elements of the story, significant questions emerged. From public records, it's clear that Foos didn't even own the motel for many of the years during which he claimed to have been conducting his "research."
When confronted with these inconsistencies, Talese said that he would disavow his book because he had been tricked by Foos, "a dishonorable man, totally dishonorable," and "certifiably unreliable."
Talese says his book's "credibility is down the toilet" and that he will not promote it.
Foos says that he didn't tell Talese about the years when he didn't own the motel because he had sold it to another voyeur who let him go on spying, but he "didn't think it would be interesting to people to see two voyeurs fighting over the same turf."
The book got a one-star review from USA Today's reviewer.
Update: Talese has disavowed his disavowal "When I spoke to the Washington Post reporter, I am sure I was surprised and upset about this business of the later ownership of the motel, in the '80s. That occurred after the bulk of the events covered in my book, but I was upset and probably said some things I didn't, and don't, mean. Let me be clear: I am not disavowing the book and neither is my publisher. If, down the line, there are details to correct in later editions, we'll do that."
But Talese overlooked a key fact in his book: Foos sold the motel, located in Aurora, Colo., in 1980 and didn't reacquire it until eight years later, according to local property records. His absence from the motel raises doubt about some of the things Foos told Talese he saw — enough that the author himself now has deep reservations about the truth of some material he presents.
"I should not have believed a word he said," the 84-year-old author said after The Washington Post informed him of property records that showed Foos did not own the motel from 1980 to 1988.
"I'm not going to promote this book," the writer said. "How dare I promote it when its credibility is down the toilet?"
The book, which will be published July 12, was excerpted in the New Yorker magazine in April. The story attracted widespread media attention and led producer-director Steven Spielberg to buy the movie rights to the book. Spielberg has lined up Sam Mendes, who won an Academy Award for directing "American Beauty," to create a film of Talese's and Foos's story.
Author Gay Talese disavows his latest book amid credibility questions
[Paul Farhi/Washington Post]
(via Mitch Wagner)