Acclaimed journalist and author Gay Talese has a new non-fiction book out this month, but a fact-check by the Washington Post prompted this unprecedented statement from Talese himself on Thursday: “I’m not going to promote this book. How dare I promote it when its credibility is down the toilet?” The book in question is The Voyeur's Motel, and it tells the bizarre and creepy story of Gerald Foos, who claims to have spied on guests at his Colorado motel for three decades starting in the 1960s. The Post, however, discovered something Talese did not: Foos sold his motel in 1980 and bought it back again in 1988, calling into question whether he was able to spy on guests in that stretch and thus raising doubts about his general veracity. The book drew wide attention when it was excerpted in the New Yorker in April, and none other than Steven Spielberg bought the movie rights.
What seems clear even after the Post article is that Foos did indeed spy on guests through the 1970s. A detective who looked into the case has perhaps the best take: “I have no doubt that Mr. Foos may have been involved in some nefarious activity while he owned the Manor House," says Stephen Conner. "I just do not think it arose to the magnitude described by Mr. Talese." The Hollywood Reporter sees Talese's disavowal as "a dramatic statement that’s sure to send shock waves rippling from the publishing world to Hollywood," while Slate—which critically picked apart the New Yorker excerpt—says "the real question for Talese at this point is: How hard did he try to vouch for the story he was telling?" Foos, for his part, tells the Post he never lied, though Talese now calls him "certifiably unreliable." He adds: "I did the best I could on this book, but maybe it wasn’t good enough.”