About the Author
's Cal Cunningham calls himself a writer, but he's too busy--or too scared--to sit down and actually write anything. He spends his days working as a bookstore stock boy and his nights chasing tail in the bars of Manhattan. Sunday mornings, he spins tales about his conquests to his roommate, a reclusive, hard-working law student named Stewart Church. When Stewart is killed in auto accident, Cal finds in Stewart's desk a novel--a brilliant novel--based on Cal's own exploits. Cal is appalled, and then inspired. He sends the novel off to New York's leading literary agent, claiming it as his own. The book is a smash hit, and as he claims the rewards of literary lionization, Cal convinces himself that he is, really, at bottom, responsible for the writing of the book, if not exactly its author. Things get a bit more complicated when he hooks up with Stewart's ex-girlfriend Janet, eventually marrying her.
The novel convincingly portrays Cal's determined delusion that everything has worked out just as it was meant to be. As he kisses Janet, he thinks how "Stewart's ghost had turned out to be a benevolent specter after all, his spirit helping to shape my destiny, to guide both Janet and me to this moment." Which is all well and good, till Cal discovers that someone else is in possession of a copy of the original manuscript. Author John Colapinto weaves together a farcical tale of literary ambition and a cat-and-mouse thriller as Cal and his blackmailer pursue each other to the very death. --Claire Dederer
From Publishers Weekly
Cal Cunningham, the engaging, "panther-thin" protagonist of Colapinto's intrepid first foray into fiction (after his nonfictional debut As Nature Made Him) is an author with writer's block, struggling to acquire the "monastic absorption" needed to pen his autobiography and be freed from a meager existence as a bookstore stock boy. His dreams of success are further dashed when reclusive law student-roommate Stewart presents a brilliant short story he's written, and after some digging on the sly, Cal discovers a scandalous, novel-length manuscript recounting the sordid details of his own womanizing life. When Stewart is killed in a biking accident, a resentful, envious Cal adopts the manuscript, Almost Like Suicide, as his own and courts Stewart's old girlfriend Janet, too. Aided by flawlessly rendered literary agent Blackie Yeager, who sells the novel for millions, Cal lands a monetary and media windfall. Eventually moving to New Halcyon, Vt., to marry Janet, his perfect if duplicitous life is interrupted by the arrival of a stranger claiming to have Stewart's laptop computer containing the original manuscript; Cal's messy, disastrous comeuppance, involving blackmail and murder, takes over the second half of the novel. Publishing-savvy readers (and those who enjoyed Donald Westlake's The Hook) will find Colapinto's depiction of Cal's book tour and the many "particularly excruciating" television interviews he must undergo hilariously apropos. Cal's surplus of manic rationalizations overwhelm some taut, well-realized suspenseful moments, and Colapinto's feel-good though immensely implausible ending will sweetly satisfy, but not without leaving a bitter aftertaste of injustice. Still, this is a fine first effort from an emerging voice in fiction.
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