And if you ask me why I did it, that's the most difficult question of all.'He refers me to the epigraph of The Hoax, by Jean le Malchanceux. He went on to write a further handful of novels, as well as non-fiction books about the Six Day War and the history of espionage.'You may look for motive in an act, but only after the act has been committed. ''That expresses my feelings as well as anything,' Irving says. Restless by nature, he travelled in Mexico and Europe.
Hughes, at that time, was a figure of immense fascination and speculation.
Then, walking into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles looking for research material, he and Suskind were staggered to be told that three boxes of material about Hughes, donated by his former publicity man, had been delivered that very same day.
Among the papers was an extraordinary three-page memo from Hughes to a studio executive in which he applied his engineering expertise to the taxing problem of how best to cantilever the miracle of natural design that were Jane Russell's breasts. Back in Ibiza, he and Suskind wove the material into the 'interview transcripts' that Irving had promised his publishers.'We'd sit there with a tape recorder and a mountain of notes and documents.
Industrialist, daredevil aviator, filmmaker and studio mogul, an inveterate womaniser who had bedded some of the most beautiful women in Hollywood, he was best known as the world's wealthiest and most bizarre recluse, believed to be living out his last days in darkened hotel suites, enshrouded in rumours and surrounded by a coterie of sinister Mormon advisers.
In 1971 Irving happened on an article about Hughes in Newsweek magazine, describing how Hughes had recently decamped from his ninth-floor redoubt in the Desert Inn Hotel, Las Vegas, to a new hideout on the ninth floor of a hotel on Paradise Island in the Bahamas. He would fake an 'authorised' biography of Hughes, and sell it to his publishers, Mc Graw-Hill, for a fortune. The world's most enigmatic man unveiled, and in his own words! The reclusive Hughes, Irving reasoned, would never come forward to repudiate the book.
Never one to let the truth spoil a good story, Clifford Irving masterminded the great Howard Hughes hoax autobiography in the 1970s, went to jail for fraud, and now spends his days living peacefully in Aspen, Colorado.