Mystery of Author ‘JT LeRoy’ Unravels

SAN FRANCISCO — One of publishing’s most bizarre mysteries appears to finally have been solved.

The writer penning the novels of “JT LeRoy,” a purported 25-year-old former male prostitute and drug addict, has been unmasked as a 40-year-old woman who allegedly undertook the ruse to get her work recognized.

LeRoy never existed and Laura Albert authored the books, her estranged partner, Geoffrey Knoop, told The New York Times in a story published Monday on its Web site. Knoop, who apologized for playing a role in the hoax, said the stress of keeping it secret had become too much to bear. The couple split in December after 16 years and were fighting over custody of their young son.

“It got to a level I didn’t expect,” Knoop, 39, said. “If you’re feeling more and more suffocated by the complications and lies, it’s not worth it.”

The unveiling of LeRoy comes at a time when the literary world is questioning the work and identities of other authors with hard luck stories. Nasdijj, an award-winning Navajo author, is now believed to be a white writer named Timothy Patrick Barrus. James Frey admitted fabricating or embellishing parts of his memoir, “A Million Little Pieces.” St. Martin’s Press recently added a disclaimer to an upcoming book by Augusten Burroughs, another memoirist who has been challenged.