James Frey’s debut novel Bright Shiny Morning has been both lauded and vilified. While the book tells the story of modern day
Problem is, he gets many of these wrong.
You would have thought after his public humiliation on Oprah he would have learned to double-check what he wrote.
Here are a few examples:
Frey says "in 1873, the city's first newspaper, the Los Angeles Daily Herald, opens."
What Frey Gets Wrong: He’s off by many years. The Herald was hardly the first newspaper. The Los Angeles Star and the El Clamor Publico started publishing in the 1850s.
What Frey Gets Wrong: My book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, focused on one of those banks, the Farmers and Merchants Bank, and I found no evidence it was robbed in 1895. A search of the Los Angeles Times Historical Newspaper Index does not support Frey’s claim either.
Frey says that by 1895 there are 135,000 people living in
What Frey Gets Wrong: In 1895,
Frey goes on to say that in 1901 “Harrison Otis, the publisher of the Los Angeles Times newspaper, and his son-on-law Harry Chandler, purchase large chunks of land in the Owens Valley … City Water Commissioner William Mulholland hires J. B. Lippincott .. to survey the land… Otis then uses the newspaper to create hysteria in regard to the dwindling water supply, and to promote a bond initiative.. ..When the bond passes, they sell the
What Frey Gets Wrong: Frey conflates events here and gets his dates wrong. After years of wrangling with the private water company, the City of
Also, Otis and
Frey says that “in 1874, Judge Robert Widney builds a two and a half mile horse-drawn railcar line leading from his
What Frey Gets Wrong: Widney did indeed build a horse-drawn trolley, not rail line, in 1874, but the rapid expansion happened in downtown
Throughout his historical sections, Frey gets the population of
He says the population is 1865 was 14,000 people. In fact, by 1870 the city population was only 5,728 people.
Frey says that between 1880 and 1890, the population grew from 30,000 residents to 100,000 residents. The population was actually 11,000 people in 1880, shot up to about 100,000 in 1887 during the height of the Los Angeles boom, and fell to 50,000 in 1890.
He then writes that the population grew from 175,000 people in 1900 to 1,750,000 in 1925. The population was 104,000 in 1900 and it grew to 577,000 in 1920 and reached 1.2 million in 1930,
What Frey Gets Right:
What Frey Gets Right:I am glad to report Frey got one historical fact correct. He writes that in 1871 John G. Downey and Isaias Hellman formed the city’s first incorporated bank, the Farmers and Merchants Bank. That’s right!