Dan Mallory’s thriller novel The Woman in the Window (written under pseudonym A.J. Finn) is headed to the big screen in May, spearheaded by English director Joe Wright. This won’t be Wright’s first rodeo when it comes to book adaptations; he is best known for his work directingPride and Prejudice (2005), Atonement (2007), and Anna Karenina (2012). It is, however, the first to be met with severe criticism before even reaching the masses. Apparently, test audiences of the movie were left confused about the plot overall, forcing the crew into reshoots and a later release date than originally planned.
IMAGE VIA AMAZON
The film will star Amy Adams as Anna, an agoraphobic child psychologist who thinks she may have witnessed a violent crime while spying on her neighbors. If this plot sounds familiar, it’s probably because we’ve seen (and read) it countless times. “Unstable woman reports suspicious activity that no one believes due to her instability” has become something of a money-making formula (see: Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train, The Woman in Cabin 10). While we love that courageous female protagonists are having a moment, we’re not particularly in love with this trope.
Aside from the severely overdone narrative, much of the controversy surrounding the upcoming film centers around debuting author of the bestseller, Dan Mallory. You know the little white lies most of us tell to get into college or get out of a long day at work? Mallory has been accused of, and admitted to, lying about the death of his mom and brother and his own battle with brain cancer. This vaguely echoes the social-climbing John Early character who fakes cancer for a book deal in the hilarious TBS hit Search Party. Mallory, however, claims that his lies about physical health battles were to protect a very real struggle with mental illness. Whatever the case may be, Mallory’s overnight success remains impressive.
IMAGE VIA LA TIMES
Sometimes we just need to enjoy things for what they are, and with a star-studded cast and famed director, this is sure to be entertaining at the very least. If you’re a fan of female-lead thrillers, scoop up a copy of The Woman in the Windowbefore you catch the film in May.
Featured image via Slash Film
Bookstr is community supported. If you enjoy Bookstr’s articles, quizzes, graphics and videos, please join our Patreon to support our writers and creators or donate to our Paypal and help Bookstr to keep supporting the book loving community. Become a Patron!
If you missed our earlier article on Mallory’s cancer lies, click the link or continue for a summary of the horrifying details. The thriller author’s recent notoriety should have been more fatal to his career than the cancer he falsely claimed to have. Instead, there have been few professional repercussions-a plot twist many attribute to Mallory’s race (white) and gender (male). Behaviors that may have doomed another writer or editor’s career-speaking in a fake British accent, allegedly leaving cups of urine around the office, pretending to have two PhDs while having exactly zero PhDs-seem benign when considering the big, ugly lies. Mallory did not have terminal cancer; his mother did not have terminal cancer; his father was not dead; his brother did not kill himself. The bigger, uglier truth, is that these falsehoods are unlikely to slow the sales of this runaway bestseller.
Mallory’s second novel is in the works. His publisher, William Morrow, has shown continued support.
Image Via Ny Times
To those just jumping in on the Dan-Mallory-is-a-liar bandwagon, you may be wondering, “could any of it really be true?” Bluntly, no. In an official apology (if that’s what his evasive statement actually was), Mallory admitted to his never having cancer. While he claimed his lies about a physical illness were to conceal his bipolar II diagnosis, psychology professionals say that the disorder would not cause organized, deliberate deception over an extended period of time. This was not an offhanded lie-Mallory impersonated his brother in emails, describing his (Mallory’s) own devastating wit and inspiring bravery in the face of terminal illness. Yikes. Also, all of his family members are distinctly not dead. So there’s that.
Unfortunately for everyone but Dan Mallory (and his loyal publisher), the novel was an instant #1 bestseller, the first debut to top the charts in eleven years. The resounding success of The Woman in the Window is no joke and no lie-but the novel itself may also have its basis in deception.
Image Via Sarah Denzil
A recent New York Times article has drawn comparisons between The Woman in the Window and Saving April, a 2016 bestseller from British author Sarah A. Denzil. If you don’t mind mild spoilers, let’s take a look at the similarities in a tidy, damning list form.
Both novels include the following:
Anxious, middle-aged female protagonists… One named Hannah, one named Anna…
…who discover something awful when spying through a window.
They discover something awful about their neighbors, who…
are an unhappily married couple and their troubled adopted child.
The troubled adopted child has a birth mother with substance abuse issues.
The protagonists are wracked with guilt over their past car crashes…
…which killed their husbands and young daughters…
all because they were distracted during a fight about their husband’s infidelity.
Unreliable narrators whose use of alcohol leads police not to trust them.
The same exact final plot twist.
“It is the EXACT same plot like down to the main characters’ back story,” reads an Amazon review comparing the two eerily similar novels. “Sorry but there’s no way the amount of stolen material is a coincidence.”
Image Via Ny Times
While it’s true that many crime novels share similar attributes, the timeline is also suspicious. Denzil’s novel hit shelves in early 2016; Mallory didn’t sell his novel until autumn of the same year. Mallory claims to have written his own thriller during summer 2015. Since he also claimed every member of his family was dead, his statement seems impossible to unilaterally believe. The Times article reports that Denzil has spoken out about her discomfort with the similarities-specifically, regret that some online reviewers believe Mallory’s book was the original. (It wasn’t.) Readers and writers across the Internet are asking the same question: is the book plagiarized?
Here’s a question with a more upsetting answer: if it is, will it matter?
The most effective accusations of plagiarism come when an author has copied another’s specific language or phrasing. Theft of creative intellectual property (plot points, characters) is much harder to prove-particularly in cases of genre fiction, where beloved tropes abound. As a result, most authors choose not to pursue legal action.
One such rare lawsuit occurred recently between fantasy authors Sherrilyn Kenyon (Dark-Hunter books) and Cassandra Clare (Shadowhunters franchise). The series are similar in the broadest sense: both feature demon-fighting characters who protect the ordinary world, ordinary objects imbued with magical powers, and swords with names. Though Kenyon’s claims were dubious, this particular case illuminates the problem of intellectual property suits.
Image Via Cassandra Clare
Sherrilyn Kenyon didn’t invent glowing swords, and Sarah A. Denzil didn’t invent unreliable female narrators. But Dan Mallory did sell his book after Saving April‘s successful release… and he’s lied about everything else. While it’s unlikely that Denzil will endure the financial and emotional burdens of a copyright lawsuit, it is regrettably even less likely that it would make a difference in the face of Mallory’s financial success.
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.