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actually did write about three books--about one-tenth autobiography
and nine-tenths pure imagination. They were terribly
funny books and they did very well.
To show you what a scalawag he was...he wrote one story
about some newspaper man up in Connecticut, either Bridgeport
or New Haven. I've forgotten where it was, but it was downright
libelous, though terribly funny. I said, “You can't do
this, Elliot. You'll be sued for libel.” Elliot laughed merrily
and said, “In the first place, the fellow's dead for five
years. In the second place, he had a wonderful sense of humor;
and if he was alive, he'd laugh himself sick at this stuff.”
Well, we left it in on his assurance and we published the book
and promptly made two discoveries in rapid succession. One,
the fellow wasn't dead. Two, he didn't think it was very
funny. He sued us. I had to go up to Bridgeport, I think it
was, and laugh him out of this. It didn't really damage his
character. It made him out to be the same kind of a man as
Elliot--one who would do almost anything for a practical joke.
I finally got us off the hook.
Did you begin to think about Elliot Paul? How could you
take his word for anything?
Well, he was so funny that we overlooked his shortcomings.
Everybody took Elliot Paul's autobiographical books
with sixteen grains of salt. The reviewers all said, “This
is obviously three fourths bunk, but what a wonderful imagination
the man has!”
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