The Guardian view on Dan Mallory: a twisted tale of publishing | Editorial
The story of Dan Mallory, aka the bestselling author AJ Finn, reads like a thriller. But it asks uncomfortable questions of the literary world
A true story worthy of a Patricia Highsmith thriller was published this week in the New Yorker. The magazine detailed the deceptions of Dan Mallory, who is the author, under the pseudonym AJ Finn, of the bestselling psychological thriller The Woman in the Window. But his launch into authordom came after a career in publishing in London and New York, during which, the investigation found, Mallory had deceived colleagues, telling them a range of stories including that his mother had died of cancer (she is alive); his brother had killed himself (he is alive); and that he himself had suffered from brain cancer. Mallory has admitted to some of this, saying that he used the excuse of brain cancer to cover up his shame at his real suffering from mental illness.
His account would not explain instances where he inflated his professional experience to smooth his rapid advance up the ranks of publishing. When the immediate thrill of reading the New Yorker’s exposé had passed, many working in the industry reflected on what the story reveals about their profession. While publishing as a whole is dominated by women, specifically white women, its most powerful positions are still mostly occupied by white men. Hachette UK, the parent company of Little, Brown where Mallory worked, last year announced that it had a median gender pay gap of 24.71%, and a mean gender pay gap of 29.69%. Women working in publishing say that all too often they see bright, likely looking young men fast-tracked for promotion, while they toil unrecognised. That Mallory was helped to rise with such speed, on the back of unchecked claims about his experience and competence, is not only depressing for those working honestly in the industry, but also deeply infuriating.