Dan Mallory is—in Dan Mallory’s own words—a man of discipline and compassion. Whatever else Dan Mallory may be seems to depend on who you ask. These are the facts that no one can obscure: Mallory’s novel under pseudonym A.J. Finn, The Woman in the Window, debuted at the top of the New York Times bestseller list, the first debut in twelve years to secure this prestigious spot. The novel (and, by extension, Mallory) rose to even higher heights, securing a blurb from international sensation Stephen King: “One of those rare books that really is unputdownable.” Though the novel was released in January 2018, the film adaptation has already been shot. This, we know: Mallory is a staggering success. But this is what insiders are beginning to suspect: Mallory is more than your average storyteller—he’s a liar.
Image Via Nathan Rabin
In person, Mallory is gregarious and appropriately self-effacing: he knows how successful he is, and, since you couldn’t possibly miss how successful he is, the least he can do is to be charmingly modest about it. According to an exposé in The New Yorker, he can do a little more than that. Journalist Ian Parker asserts that Dan Mallory has lied about death and dysfunction in a manner far beyond the possibility of misinterpretation. According to Dan Mallory, he has two PhDs—making him a “double doctor,” as he would occasionally joke. But (also according to Mallory) these successes haven’t come without tragedy: he and his mother both have terminal cancer; Mallory himself has ten more years to live. His father is dead. Oh, and his brother killed himself. Here’s the plot twist greater than any from Mallory’s stories: all three dead family members are alive.
Image Via BBC
In a story that seems ripped straight from the scripts of Netflix’s Sick Note (a show in which Rupert Grint portrays a man who lies about having cancer, alternate name “What If Ron Weasley Was The Worst Person Ever”), Mallory went as far as to fake emails from his brother. His ‘brother’ acted as a go-between when Dan was in surgery for his cancer, keeping Dan’s workplace up to date on his condition and, more importantly, is a ruse.
One email from Jake, Dan’s brother, reads:
[Dan is having] complicated surgery with several high risk factors, including the possibility of paralysis and/or the loss of function below the waist.” But Dan has been through worse and has pointed out that if he could make it through Love Actually alive, this surgery holds no terrors. [Dan will eat] an early dinner of sashimi and will then read a book about dogs until bedtime. Dan was treated terribly by people throughout his childhood and teenage years and into his twenties, which left him a very deeply lonely person, so he does not like/trust many people. Please keep him in your thoughts.
When a colleague later asked how Jake was, Mallory reported that Jake had killed himself.
Since, according to Mallory’s Oxford professors, Jake had died years before of complications with his equally fictional cerebral palsy, this sets up a perplexing timeline. Mallory had used his carefully-crafted tales of personal tragedy to earn acceptance to Oxford University. When the tactic failed to work on Princeton, Mallory sent a strongly-worded email—the strong words being, in this case, “you heartless bastards… not that I ever seriously considered gracing your godforsaken institution with my presence.” Is this one of those instinctual patterns where the egotistic and delusional lash out when they don’t get what they want? We can’t say. It appears that Mallory has always gotten what he wanted—no matter what tactics he used.
Mallory claimed in an email that Jake had been with him through a seven-hour nighttime surgery (though most surgeries of the nature he described do not take place overnight). At the same time, Jake posted pictures online of himself at an event. Jake claims that this email exchange never happened.
Image Via The TELEGRAPH
Mallory did not complete his doctorate at Oxford. (Of course, he did come back from the U.K. with a fake British accent. and a sudden impulse to do things like ‘take the lift’ and ‘use the loo.’)Though he did attend Oxford University, he left, due to his mother’s illness. According to Mallory’s father, Pamela Mallory did indeed have serious cancer throughout her son’s high school years. When asked what she thought of the matter, Pamela shut down the conversation before it began: “we’re not doing that.” The other half of Mallory’s ‘double-doctorate’ was a PhD in psychology—specifically, he claimed to have studied Munchausen’s Syndrome, a condition in which a patient pretends to have a physical or mental illness though they, in truth, have invented the symptoms. Mallory, apparently, invented this degree.
Mallory frequently gained job qualifications by lying about his qualifications and falsifying employment offers in order to pressure publishing companies into hiring him. When confronted about the job offer he did not receive, Mallory complained the woman who revealed the truth was a liar, angry because he had refused her sexual advances. A colleague expresses her doubts: “Once [the job offer] fell away, then you obviously think, Is he really ill? Even to the extent of ‘Does his family exist?’ and ‘Is he even called Dan Mallory?’” The truth was that Dan Mallory was really ill—it just wasn’t with cancer.
Mallory’s formal apology, if that is the appropriate name for it, addresses only his disingenuous battle with cancer. It does not address the cups of urine he allegedly left in his boss’ office directly before leaving his position. It does not address the email, also attributed to Mallory, calling a former co-worker “one of the nastiest c*nts in publishing.” It doesn’t address the suicide of his brother or the death of his father. It does address his bipolar II disorder, an illness he positions as the precarious keystone of his overarching lie:
It is the case that on numerous occasions in the past, I have stated, implied, or allowed others to believe that I was afflicted with a physical malady instead of a psychological one: cancer, specifically. My mother battled aggressive breast cancer starting when I was a teenager; it was the formative experience of my adolescent life, synonymous with pain and panic.
I felt intensely ashamed of my psychological struggles – they were my scariest, most sensitive secret. And for 15 years, even as I worked with psychotherapists, I was utterly terrified of what people would think of me if they knew – that they’d conclude I was defective in a way that I should be able to correct, or, worse still, that they wouldn’t believe me. Dissembling seemed the easier path.
Like many afflicted with severe bipolar II disorder, I experienced crushing depressions, delusional thoughts, morbid obsessions, and memory problems. It’s been horrific, not least because, in my distress, I did or said or believed things I would never ordinarily say, or do, or believe – things of which, in many instances, I have absolutely no recollection.
Esteemed psychiatrist Nigel Blackwood of King’s College London is perfectly willing to believe that Mallory has bipolar disorder. He’s just unwilling to believe that the disorder is the basis for Mallory’s deception—or that it’s a reasonable excuse. Patients may experience “periods of inflated self-esteem,” but, he emphasized, “[hypomanic episodes] cannot account for sustained arrogant and deceptive interpersonal behaviors.”
But literary agent Chis Parris-Lamb put it best: “if he is one of the lucky ones who has managed to get his disease under control and produce a best-selling novel—if he is stable and lucid enough to do that—then he is stable and lucid enough to apologize to the people he lied to and the people he hurt.”
Given that mental disorders already buckle under the weight of stigma, Mallory’s claims are unhelpful at best. At worst, they’re as damaging as his everything else—the lies, the tragedy, and the piss cups.