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The Thieves of Manhattan: A Novel Paperback – July 13, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Langer (Crossing California) delivers an über-hip caper that pays homage to and skewers the state of publishing and flash-in-the-pan authors. Aspiring writer Ian Minot toils in a New York City diner, enraged because he can't get published. His jealousy is pushed to the edge because he suspects the bestselling memoir about drug addiction and being in a gang by no-talent Blade Markham is a fake. Then Ian's Romanian girlfriend, Anya Petrescu, easily finds a publisher for her short stories. Ian becomes the latest author to be embroiled in a headline-making literary scam when he can't resist a scheme in which he passes off another man's novel about a valuable manuscript as his own memoir. The consummate con game takes a deadly turn after Ian realizes he doesn't understand the ramifications of his book nor does he control his emerging career. Part Bright Lights, Big City, part The Grifters, this delicious satire of the literary world is peppered with slang so trendy a glossary is included. (July)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

Crime caper meets metafictional satire of the publishing industry in this mischievous novel, says the New Yorker about this postmodern work, which skewers the publishing industry as it examines the meaning of truth and fraud. Snarky, clever, and preposterous, yet somehow credible (James Frey comes to mind), The Thieves of Manhattan kept critics on their toes. Yet while most critics enjoyed (or at least "got") Langer's name-dropping and insider vocabulary (a "poppins" is an umbrella, "franzens" are glasses, etc.), some thought his references were over-the-top. The ending also confounded a few reviewers who otherwise praised Langer's storytelling skill. Although entertaining and clever in its own right, the novel may best be appreciated by readers familiar with the tropes of the publishing world.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 259 pages
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau; No Edition Stated edition (July 13, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400068916
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400068913
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #938,995 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia on July 17, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Thieves" is magically entertaining. I loved Langer's wonderfully inventive literary references. Famous author's names can become verbs or evocative nouns such as when Ian, the main character, gets fed up with his crazy life and wants to pull a salinger, meaning he wants to hide away for awhile a la JD Salinger. People at upscale literary readings and parties drink faulkners (whiskey) or fitzgeralds (gin rickys), they wear ecklebergs or franzens, both forms of eyeglasses.

In the beginning Ian, a failing writer, meets Jed, another failed author, or is he a scam artist? and they embark on an adventure as they rewrite Jed's memoir. Along the way they speculate about what literary talent is, who has it, who's a fake or real in the corporate literary world and among their fellow writers. I loved the inside look into book society as well as the adventure tale running throughout the story. There are also a few love stories along the way and some cloak and dagger adventure. Best were the humor and the sense of fun. I enjoyed Langer's book immensely.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Spencer Schankel on September 3, 2010
Format: Paperback
I loved "The Thieves of Manhattan" by Adam Langer. A well wrought premise, at first neatly told and with little literary conceits that are down right amusing: a golightly is a cocktail dress as in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and a faulkner is a whiskey, and so on. There is even a glossary of terms. Imagined or not, it is an interesting glimpse into the publishing world that seems dimmer everyday; smug agents, posers, flash-in-the-pan best selling authors, clueless publishers. A book where most characters are not as they seem.

As said I loved it, as in past tense. Someone once wrote or said that in a novel an author can get away with one coincidence, and I suppose in a tolstoy (really hefty one) perhaps a couple. As this story unspools the coincidences, the accidents of improbable timing are simply staggering. It became almost impossible to suspend disbelief--as if one had been reading an amusing book that suddenly turned into a Indiana Jones adventure, and then into a cartoon.

In the first half there were a couple of plot distractions that caused hairline cracks in my suspension of disbelief, but they weren't fatal. All of a sudden something happens on page 174 that doesn't seem wrong until later in the story, but eventually it causes major cracks in the disbelief problem. (I don't want to make this a spoiler.) On page 194 a genuine deus ex machina appears in the form of an overweight café owner--unexpected and really inexplicable, although the author tries to explain it. In another scene the hero apparently reaches out for a glass of water but two pages later his hands are tied so that he has to indicate something with his chin as a pointer.

Lastly, I wished that I'd stopped reading at about page 190 and skipped to the last chapter.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 14, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
wrote this book. Adam Langer is the well-regarded author of three wonderfully sly novels set in Chicago and New York, and one interesting memoir about his father. I've read and enjoyed all four books. While he's not - as far as I can tell, anyway - a mega-bestselling author like Grisham or Brown - his writing seems to have been well received. The character in "Thieves", Ian Minot, is a never-succeeding writer in Manhattan - the one in New York state - who sees success all around him, but never manages to attain it for himself. He sees writers less talented than he is take advantage of - or are taken advantage by - the literary establishment in New York. He's particularly bitter about the authors who write "memoirs" that are fake but go on to literary glory. Ian sees this as a large system of fraud, from the writers to the reps to the publishing houses, who are making a lot off phony memoirs. Ian falls into on ongoing plot with several other failing writers and the plot of the book he writes turns real.

So I don't think Langer wrote this novel - which is very good and funny - as a bitter rejoinder to the literary world for not seeing his talent. He's clearly NOT the character "Ian Minot", but he's obviously distressed at the state of the literary society today where authors and agents and publishers play a game with literary output. I couldn't help but laugh at the number of "blurbs" from other well-known writers praising Langer's book.

I think I'll wait awhile to see what others say about "Thieves of Manhattan" and Langer's reason for writing it. I have a feeling that either the book will be ignored or will actually bring about some valid questioning of the literary establishment.

In any case, as always, Langer's novel is a great read, with his usual sly wit. I also think its great that the book was published in trade paper instead of hard back.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on August 3, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was so interesting to me in ways I didn't expect. I recently read "The Angel's Game," by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, and although quite different, they are alike in several intriguing ways. I kept thinking of the text-to-text conections (teachers will know)while reading. Both are Faustian books about books, asking "what is the truth?" From there, they completely diverge. "Angel's" is full of magical realism, set in Barcelona, while "Thieves" is contempory, set in Manhattan. The many literary allusions in "Thieves" make it a real English major's book. I heard Adam Langer interviewed on Weekend Edition Sunday, and he said he embedded 5 or 6 puzzles in the book, and he did the NY Times crossword every day before he wrote. An NYT puzzle fan myself, the puzzles eluded me. Anyone out there get them?
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