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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 June 2007, 09:21 GMT 10:21 UK
Cult author denies 'hoax' claims
Sarah by JT LeRoy
Sarah, LeRoy's first novel, was published in 2001
A female author who wrote a book as a male prostitute has told a US court that her creation was not a hoax.

Laura Albert, who gained cult status writing as JT LeRoy, admitted he was not real, but said she assumed male identities after being sexually abused.

The author is being sued by a film company which claims she defrauded it by selling the screen rights to an autobiography which was fiction.

The 41-year-old added that she believed the character of LeRoy was inside her.

Null and void

"It was my respirator," she told the court in New York. "If you take JT, you take my other and I die."

Ms Albert admitted to conducting interviews in the character of LeRoy, and when a tape of an interview was played to the jury, she said: "It was JT LeRoy speaking and I was there."

She broke down in tears as she recounted a history of sexual abuse which she was too scared to report.

"There was no place safe except the places you can go. The places are the boys - I can tell their stories," Ms Albert testified.

The writer added that from the late 1980s, when she moved to San Francisco, she had a manner of jobs including working on a telephone sex line, where she occasionally used a male voice.

Actress Asia Argento
Italian actress Asia Argento starred in a film based on a JT LeRoy book

She said the character of Jeremiah LeRoy developed soon after the birth of her son and due to a character she had created for one of her books.

"I had just given birth to my son and I wanted this other child to be out in the world," the author told the courtroom.

Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, president of Antidote International Films, which is seeking $110,000 (55,275) in damages from the writer, earlier told the court that he did not realise LeRoy was imaginary until 2006, six years after the hit book was published.

Antidote and Ms Albert's company, Underdogs Inc, signed an agreement to option the film rights to the book Sarah in 2003, which they claim is null and void.

An unrelated film based on LeRoy's writings, The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, was released in 2004, charting the abuse which the young Jeremiah is subject to.

The work of JT LeRoy built up a faithful following, with actress Winona Ryder said to be a big fan.

Director Gus Van Sant claimed to have cultivated a strong working relationship with LeRoy, who is credited as an associate producer on his 2003 film Elephant.

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