Author tackles Facebook’s history

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Author tackles Facebook’s history

NEW YORK - Author Ben Mezrich wants readers to enjoy his new book about the founding of social networking Web site Facebook like a page-turning thriller and ignore criticism of his reporting methods.

Mezrich’s book, “The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal,” hit the shelves on Tuesday and already is being blasted by some as more about fun than facts.

BusinessWeek called the book, published by Doubleday, a “tawdry mishmash” and said Mezrich wrote “a fictionalized account of the founding of Facebook.”

Mezrich dismisses that as elitist claptrap. “It’s a nonfiction book. It’s a true story,” he told Reuters in an interview. “I am a narrative nonfiction writer in a way that other people don’t write. I’m trying to create my own genre of nonfiction.”

Mezrich did not interview Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and critics say the author fails to explain properly Zuckerberg’s transformation from anti-social Harvard University student into Silicon Valley’s hottest property.

Mezrich is no stranger to controversy. His book “Bringing Down the House,” about a group of Massachusetts Institute of Technology students who won millions playing blackjack and counting cards in Las Vegas casinos, was criticized by the Boston Globe for having made up scenes and characters.

Mezrich insists he follows normal journalistic practice - conducting interviews, talking with sources, combing through documents and piecing material together into a story. In one scene from the book, he speculates that Zuckerberg broke into a Harvard dormitory to hack into a computer server, describing him hiding behind a sofa waiting for a couple locked in a steamy embrace to leave the room.

“I can either write a sentence that says an engineer says that this is how [Zuckerberg] did it, or I can recreate that scene,” Mezrich said. “I chose to write the scene.”

“I’m much more into entertainment than literature,” he said, citing fiction writers Stephen King, Michael Crichton and John Grisham as his “heroes.”

Asked to comment, Facebook spokesman Elliot Schrage said in a statement: “Ben Mezrich clearly aspires to be the Jackie Collins or Danielle Steele of Silicon Valley.”

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