A Friday of firsts

As a longtime print journalist, I admit my relationship with TV news channels was, at one time, somewhat antagonistic. We wanted to scoop them, and we weren’t happy when they reported something we didn’t have.

But as an author, the TV news morning shows, which tend I think of as their version of the newspaper’s Arts & Entertainment section, are important. So when the opportunity arose to be on NewsChannel 10’s 2nd Cup at 9 a.m. on Friday, I was excited. It would be my first appearance on television promoting my fiction (or for any reason at all).

I am fortunate to have had some training in public speaking, though this wasn’t exactly the same. And, while I used a few too many “likes,” I am happy with how it went. I think having a great host like Ali Allison was important.

One of the main reasons I wanted to be on a local TV morning show was to plug my signing at Barnes & Noble later that night.

The signing at Barnes & Noble wasn’t my first. But it was my first at the world’s largest bookseller, so there is, at least in my mind, a major prestige factor involved with signing at a Barnes & Noble.

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I will make my television debut on Friday morning

I will be leading off Amarillo’s NewsChannel 10 2nd Cup morning show at 9 a.m. Friday.

Stashed away among the cobwebs of my brain is the memory of being one of many children in a local television commercial. It was likely in Maine or New York. I also remember doing a short interview, along with some friends, on a local radio station in one of those locations. I believe I was on the local Little League All-Star team. I said my favorite hobby was sleeping.

As an adult, I have been behind a cellphone trying hard to frame out the covered body behind a detective sergeant holding a news conference at a homicide scene. I have also gotten footage of a tractor-trailer half hanging out of the McDonald’s on Amarillo Boulevard.

But I have never been in front of a television camera for any reason.

Until Friday at 9 a.m.

I was booked this morning as a guest on Amarillo’s NewsChannel 10 (KFDA-TV, local CBS affiliate) 2nd Cup morning show. I will be leading off the show at 9 a.m. and speaking with Ali Allison (left in the image at the top of this post). We will discuss my debut novel, Deep Background (https://amzn.to/2MIWQPn), my signing that night at Barnes & Noble (https://www.facebook.com/events/2275373845828045) and whatever else we want to.

I am mostly excited, but also a bit nervous. But I’m determined to enjoy this new experience. I’m not sure if they put out video clips of segments or not. If they do, I will be sure to post it. Either way, I will write about it and let you know how bad the butterflies got before they counted down behind the cameras.

Dan Mallory’s lies were hurtful, and I hope he sees that now

Dan Mallory, who wrote “The Woman in the Window” under pen name A.J. Finn, did not directly copy any other works. But what he did do was worse.

I set out today to write a comparison of “The Woman in the Window,” last year’s literary thriller that had everyone talking, and “Copycat,” the movie that Dan Mallory was accused of essentially ripping off by The New Yorker in an expose posted online this week.

I rented the movie, a 1995 thriller that probably doesn’t get the credit it deserves today despite holding a respectable 76 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. I got out a pad and pen and set out to write down, scene by scene, where the novel and book mirrored each other. This piece was going to be a side-by-side comparison, a “the book was better” post, only probably in reverse.

What happened instead was this: I watched a pretty good ’90s flick with a star-studded cast that probably doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, and I was not able to write my planned follow-up piece about Mallory, who was outed in the New Yorker piece as a man whose mental illness likely contributed to — but did not excuse — a series of bizarre and destructive actions that led to him becoming a millionaire author.

And, as I read more throughout the day and heard from many voices, I was able to find a much better perspective on his story and how, even if he’s not guilty of any plagiarism or true storytelling crimes, what he did was incredibly wrong in some impactful ways.

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Dan Mallory’s debut was not an amazing thriller, but his rise in the publishing world is

Dan Mallory, who wrote “The Woman in the Window” under the pen name A.J. Finn, was essentially outed as a manipulative narcissist — and incredibly derivative if not a plagiarist — in an incredible profile by The New Yorker. (Nathan Bajar / For The New York Times)

If this post was a work of fiction, the serendipity I’m about to describe would either be essential to the plot, or bad writing. But, as it happens, I finished up the audiobook version of the much-ballyhooed literary thriller “The Woman in the Window” this morning while trying to wake up after consuming too much beer and brisket during a rather meh Super Bowl.

After the wonderful narration by Ann Marie Lee concludes, there is a short interview with Finn, whose name in our version of reality (that’ll make more sense to you in about five minutes) is Dan Mallory. Lee introduces Mallory as Finn and his real name is not mentioned. What is mentioned is Mallory’s love of thrillers and how Gillian Flynn’s 2012 outlier “Gone Girl” changed the genre (I agree with this and have said as much to folks with whom I discuss thrillers and the current market). Hitchcockian and noir films are also mentioned. He “feasted” on them, Mallory, as Finn, said.

A bit more to the point of this post is Mallory’s mention of the severe depression he’s struggled with for his entire adult life. That experience helped shape his protagonist in “The Woman in the Window,” the agoraphobic child psychologist Anna Fox.

“As a depressed person, I’ve spent many years on fairly intimate terms with grief, misery, and fear,” Mallory, as Finn, said in the interview, which ended the audiobook produced by Mosaic Audio and released Jan. 2, 2018.

“But there’s a silver lining — these struggles have helped me develop a strong sense of empathy, and I’ve tried to bring those experiences, and that hard-won empathy, to the character of a complicated woman who has lost all belief in the possibilities of life.”

Pay attention to that quote, class. It gets a little more confusing from here, and you may have to refer to your notes. You’ll also want to remember that Mallory said he took “exactly one year to write” the novel. Another fact to note: Mallory said he had a very detailed outline from which his characters didn’t deviate during his writing process.

After the audio ended, I checked my Twitter notifications, and from there refreshed my feed to see what the Twitterverse was discussing after Tom Brady and Bill Belichick cemented their godlike gridiron statuses.

One of the first tweets I saw was from Joyce Carol Oates.

https://twitter.com/JoyceCarolOates/status/1092485735020519424

I was intrigued, like many writers — especially journalists — would naturally be when encountering a possible case of plagiarism. I dug deeper into Oates’ thread.

https://twitter.com/JoyceCarolOates/status/1092484574121054210

That, of course, led me to the New Yorker magazine profile of Dan Mallory, also known as A.J. Finn, who at one point in his bizarre literary life also wrote as his younger brother Jake, whose real name is John.

Confused yet? As you can see, The New Yorker’s web headline is appropriate for the piece: A Suspense Novelist’s Trail of Deceptions.

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In the news: Rick Treon featured in The Big Thrill magazine

Going from interviewer to the interviewee felt a bit strange late last year when Azam Gill from The Big Thrill sent me questions via email. He was working on a feature story for The Big Thrill, the online magazine of the International Thriller Writers.

I already had a couple of short mentions in the local media, basically re-written press releases or a short mention along with other authors having events.

But the story in The Big Thrill was going to be the largest piece written about me and my novel, and it did not disappoint.

Here are some of my favorite parts (please go online to read the whole thing if you can).

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