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Famous Author Lifestyle Strategy: Lie About Having Cancer

February 19, 2019

When The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn came out last year, I was immediately suspicious of it.  The novel was promoted as “the next Gone Girl.”  A bunch of other extra promotion was going into the novel, way too much for a first time author.  The final straw was Stephen King calling the book “unputdownable.”  I’d been burned by King’s overly positive reviews of mediocre fiction in the past, and I knew something was going on.

Then in an interview, I discovered that AJ Finn’s real name was Dan Mallory and that he’d actually worked as an executive editor for the publishing company that was putting out the book.  No wonder The Woman in the Window was getting so much publicity, I thought, nepotism.  Journalists didn’t seem to see anything wrong with that.  I understood; if journalists voice their concerns, they won’t get future interviews.

Despite all the super-hype for a first time novelist (I’m always suspicious of super-hype), I felt I needed to read at least an excerpt of The Woman in the Window.  Maybe the novel really was that unputdownable.  It happens, though I can’t think of an example offhand.  Usually a novel that is that unputdownable takes a while to get noticed.  Still, I decided to read the first few chapters (without spending any money).

The Woman in the Window was okay.  I put it down.  I didn’t finish it.  I didn’t think the main character was that interesting and the focus on film noir felt more like the author was just showing off.  It made me suspect that The Woman in the Window was a huge bestseller just because the publishing company wanted it to be, and the book was interesting enough to not ruin the hype.  I’ll give the author credit; the book didn’t suck.

The author sucks, but the book doesn’t.  Now I’ll get to why the author sucks (in case the title of the blog post didn’t make it clear).

It came out a couple weeks ago that the author Dan Mallory has been outright lying about having cancer (you can get more details here).  I mean, he didn’t lie to me personally about having cancer.  He supposedly lied on an Oxford application and to the publishing companies where he worked in London and the United States, and he’s lied to audiences in his public appearances.  I’m not sure how much his fictional cancer stories helped him in his professional career, but you know he received a lot of attention over it.

Cancer victims always get a lot of attention and sympathy.  I don’t begrudge them that attention.  Having cancer is rough.

Those fake cancer people don’t have it quite as rough, though.  In fact, I can’t stand those fake cancer people.  They’re taking away sympathy from others who need it more, like real cancer victims and people who’ve lost their loved ones.  Those people deserve the sympathy.

I admit, I’m not exactly truthful all the time, but I know my boundaries.  As a somewhat anonymous blogger, I change a few minor details to give myself plausible deniability (if I ever need it).  But I won’t lie about cancer or dead relatives.  I don’t even lie about dead pets.

Maybe Dan Mallory regrets lying about cancer, but he won’t really get punished for it.  His novel was still one of the top selling novels in 2018, and he’ll still make a ton of money off the movie that’s coming out this year, even if it sucks.  He’ll still get a lot of money for his next book.  As far as I can tell, he has only been rewarded for his bad behavior.

I’m not saying he needs to go to jail or anything.  He doesn’t need to go on Oprah and cry, like James Frey did.  He doesn’t need to change his pen name and start writing YA fantasy books, like James Frey did.

Actually, that’s a good punishment.  He can still write books, but they have to be YA.

Lying about cancer is pretty bad.  I mean, there’s a part of me that’s glad that the author didn’t really have to suffer through it.  The other part of me thinks… what a dick!  Lying about cancer?  At least he didn’t write a memoir about surviving cancer.  At least his novel has nothing to do with cancer (I think).  At least the publishing company didn’t promote the novel as “written by a cancer survivor” and put out pink book flaps.

But I’m still disgusted by the guy.  Now I’m glad that I didn’t spend my own money on The Woman in the Window.

  1. That is awful! I don’t like that he lied either. I agree with you calling him a dick for saying he had cancer.

    • I figure that’s the least we can do. I might not buy any of his books as well. And I probably won’t go see any movies based on his books.

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