His upcoming book The Voyeur’s Motel has been controversial since The New Yorker published an excerpt earlier this year. It traces Talese’s decades-long correspondence with Gerald Foos, a voyeur who owned a motel that he modified so he could watch people from the ceiling and record what he saw (mostly people doing it). Foos was bad with ethical issues, obviously. He tells Talese he witnessed a murder but delayed contacting the police. He also has a strange habit of throwing out drug dealers’ stashes, inviting violence. And Talese was implicated as well: He signed a confidentiality agreement with Foos, and joined him on at least one peeping session.
But the book apparently suffers from more than just ethical issues. The Washington Post reports that Foos did not even own the titular motel between 1980 and 1988, which means that much of the information in Foos’s journals was possibly made-up. When presented with this information, Talese renounced the book, saying, “I should not have believed a word he said. ...I’m not going to promote this book. ... How dare I promote it when its credibility is down the toilet?”
But with or without Talese, Grove Atlantic will still put out the book on July 13. Grove’s publisher, Morgan Entrekin, told the Post that most of the events in the book took place before 1980, though he also said later printings may include an author’s note. Whether there will even be subsequent printings, now that the book’s credibility has been tarnished, is another question, however.