Six years ago, a young memoirist named James Frey smacked the rarefied literary world with A Million Little Pieces, a down-and-dirty memoir of addiction and recovery whose hard-boiled prose spurted his blood and broken teeth into startled readers' cappuccinos. As he threw elbows at popular peers like Dave Eggers -- "I hope I'm a bullet in the heart of that bullshit," Frey told The New York Observer in early 2003 -- Random House imprint Doubleday ordered a confident first printing of 50,000 copies. "Mr. Frey said he originally shopped the book as a work of fiction," the Observer reported, "but Ms. [Nan] Talese and Co. declined to publish it as such."
As a memoir, A Million Little Pieces stormed the august New York Times bestseller list for nonfiction. And then things really got shocking -- for James Frey.