Clifford Irving Dies: Howard Hughes Hoax Writer Was 87

American novelist Clifford Irving, who wrote a fake autobiography of billionaire Howard Hughes, died Tuesday at age 87.

Julie Irving, the author's sixth wife, told The New York Times that Irving died in a hospice in Sarasota, Florida, just a week after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, AFP reported.

Irving was a little-known novelist when he made the sensational announcement in 1970 that he had held a series of interviews with the reclusive Hughes for an authorized autobiography.

Irving received a hefty advance from McGraw-Hill for the book and its publication was eagerly anticipated by a public hungry for details about the famously private Hollywood producer and celebrated aviator.

In fact, Irving had had no contact with Hughes and was perpetrating what the Times called "one of the biggest literary hoaxes of the 20th century."

He was exposed when Hughes broke his silence and denied any collaboration with Irving.

Convicted of fraud, "my reward in 1972 for that Hughes lunacy was 16 months in three federal prisons," Irving wrote on his official website.

Richard Gere starred in a 2006 movie about the case called "The Hoax."