The Charlatans

Shortly after leaving rehab, Romero promised Hodes and Donnenberg that he would make good on his debts. But as months passed, all the pair received were promises from the doctor and Solotaroff that they would be "made whole." Romero had given legal assignments transferring a portion of his book income to both Hodes and Donnenberg, but no money materialized. When they threatened to go public with their complaints about Romero, Solotaroff, they said, helped arrange for Hodes to be reimbursed for the bounced rent checks. Though the check was drawn on the account of Romero's attorney, Solotaroff said that he was the source of the funds, having borrowed the money from his father, Ted. (Solotaroff's bio reports that he "comes from a dense literary provenance," noting that Ted Solotaroff, a well-known book editor, worked with authors like Norman Mailer and Russell Banks.)

In connection with a small claims court action filed last year by Hodes against Solotaroff and Romero, the author settled that suit by paying Hodes another $3000. Solotaroff was sued, records show, because he allegedly promised to cover another debt owed to Hodes by Romero.

As for Donnenberg, he finally got back his $10,000 late last year. As part of the settlement, Romero signed an agreement promising that he would no longer "engage as a therapist in individual psychotherapy or group therapy, nor will he prescribe psychotropic medication to patients." Donnenberg said he requested this pledge, which the psychiatrist eventually ignored, because he believed that Romero had overmedicated him.

As a condition of Hodes's and Donnenberg's financial settlements, Solotaroff required both men to sign confidentiality agreements barring them from speaking about the deal. Hodes's agreement barred him from talking about Group until the book's publication, while Donnenberg was gagged in perpetuity. In fact, each man was specifically prohibited from talking to media representatives and, strangely, to anyone at Solotaroff's publisher.

Such reserve would seem anathema to a journalist who describes his personal vocation in soaring, majestic terms: "My subjects are those who are strangled by silence, whose suffering is compounded for being made to keep mum," Solotaroff once wrote. "If there is anything I know and honor on this planet, it is the power of dire necessity: the story that absolutely needs to be told, the pain that needs to be tended."

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