Honesty in autobiographies

I recently commented on Peter Haining’s biography of Sweeney Todd which made the Demon Barber appear real and the growing trend to merge fiction in fact. One of my favourite autobiographies is Left At East Gate, by Larry Warren, which covers the authors involvement in the Rendlesham Forest UFO case. I was unconvinced by the account but, having listened to the author speak, felt that he was recounting the truth as he remembered it.

Last week I came across the website of Larry’s co-author Peter Robbins who claims that Warren provided false evidence in the book. I am aware of various Jack the Ripper books where the author has done this or is alleged to have done so. Robbins’ claims come across as genuine. This doesn’t mean that everything in the book is false, but it increases the level of doubt.

Currently I am reading “Who on Earth is Tom Baker?” by the finest actor to play Doctor Who. It’s a very enjoyable and well-written account of an eventful, and often difficult, life with many anecdotes that seem implausible. Baker’s willingness to discuss his own perceived failings, a rare trait, leaves me convinced that he was recounting the truth as he remembered it.

Paul Williams is a writer of fiction and non-fiction best known for his Jack the Ripper Suspects: The Definitive Guide and Encyclopedia.

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