A Quick Note on A.J. Finn

The book world was recently set ablaze by a New Yorker article by Ian Parker, titled “A Suspense Novelist’s Trail of Deceptions” in which Dan Mallory was shown to be a conman. I will link the article here, and though it is quite the lengthy read, I highly suggest reading the whole thing, because it is truly a remarkable story.

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The Woman in the Window is only the start

It honestly cannot get stranger.

I’m not going to say too much about the actual contents of the article, because I feel it has all already been said, and I do not necessarily want to give him more attention. However, as I had his book up on my “recommended” list under thrillers, I figured it is important to address what can only be described as one of the biggest publishing scandals in recent memory. Plus, I just really, really, really need to talk about it.

It has taken me a week or so to collect my thoughts on the matter, and I just want to say that I regret pushing people to read his book. The article demonstrates quite clearly the fact that his biography has been falsified, but it also proves that his book is potentially at least partly plagiarized, with full swaths of plot lifted from a movie made in 1995, titled Copycat (which honestly just makes me wonder if it really was all just some sort of elaborate performance piece because SERIOUSLY how perfect is that). His book currently sits on my shelf, and I don’t really know what to do with it. Should I donate it? I don’t want to add another book into circulation. Do I throw it away? That, quite frankly, hurts my book loving heart too much. Do I leave it there? That’s currently the conclusion I’ve come to, in part because I like having books I’ve read on my shelf, in part because I don’t know what else to do with it, but also because it kind of thrills me to know that I was somehow tricked. In a weird way, this whole crazy story about Dan Mallory adds a level of excitement that I’m kind of horrified by in myself.

It’s also weird because a part of me wants to reread his book now, and search for clues that might have allowed me to recognize him for the conman that he is. I want to reread it and note the fact that he writes “postman” instead of “mailman” and read it knowing that I should not like it, because then maybe I will come away from it thinking, “oh this book was really bad I don’t know what I was thinking!” and feel smug knowing that at least I have changed my feelings, and can feel less guilty and less like I was conned.

I find it so interesting that we seem to be living through The Age of the Con Man; they are virtually everywhere. Online scams and telephone scams have always been around, but recently there seems to have been an uptick on weird phone calls I get. I could not stop listening to the podcast, Dirty John, and am really excited to watch the television adaptation. Donald Trump is in office. Dan Mallory wrote a NYT Bestselling book and basically tricked the world into thinking he had two doctorates. Why are we so fascinated by the conman? Why are we as a society so easily conned?

I ended up reading a whole bunch of articles after the fact that pointed to misogyny as the primary reason that Dan Mallory got as far into the publishing world as he did. I’ve watched Youtube videos of Dan Mallory recommending books, including The Talented Mr. Ripley on his list of favorite books, and looked for the weird quirks in his cadence and accent that were alluded to in the article. As I was doing all of this extra research it made me wonder if Dan Mallory would ever even actually feel any sort of real repercussions. As much as I want to write him off entirely, The Woman in the Window has already been made into a movie, starring Amy Adams and Julianne Moore. He’s got a new book coming out soon, and I don’t think William Morrow is going to not publish it because of all of this press. Because really, I know I am fascinated, and I would not be surprised if other people who prior to this scandal had no interest in reading his books are now considering picking them up. I’m going to be curious to see if Dan Mallory somehow ends up benefitting once again, and in a different way, from his his mountain of lies.