And only after the book is published does it become apparent that the letter is a complete hoax.
Even worse, the letter contains a coded message which turns out to be a joke at your expense. Worse still, the joke is an extremely rude insult aimed at you personally.
This is precisely what happened to biographer A.N.Wilson who recently published book about the life of former poet-laureate, John Betjemen. The leading suspect in the hoax was another Betjemen biographer, Bevis Hillier, with whom Wilson had been having an ongoing feud in print. (Hillier has since admitted the deception.)
The hidden message was discovered by the Sunday Times. The first letters of each sentence in the letter (except the first) spell out the insulting message:
AN WILSON IS A SHITThe letter was sent to Wilson by a woman called Eve de Harben who said that it had been originally owned by an American collector. Eve de Harben is an anagram for:
Ever been had?Literary London probably hasn't had such a good laugh in ages.
Read Sarah Lyall's account of the hoax in the New York Times, and fellow biographer Kathryn Jones' opinion piece in the Guardian.