I received an excited call from a friend the other night. “Do you have Netflix? Drop what you’re doing and check out THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW! It’s pure Hitchcock!”
Based on the best-selling novel by A. J. Finn. Directed by ATONEMENT’s Joe Wright. Starring Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, Julianne Moore, and Jennifer Jason Leigh.
I thought to myself, this has to be good.
It turned out I was wrong.
I was wrong, and so was my friend.
It was a sort of distillate of Hitchcock. A fallen soufflé heavy with Hitchcock ingredients. Blend half a cup of REAR WINDOW with half a cup of VERTIGO and a quarter cup of PSYCHO. Add a dash of GONE GIRL. Fold into a bucket of blood. Burn in an overheated oven for 1 hour and forty minutes, and voila…THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW!
Curious to know more about the book underlying this film adaptation, I decided to do a bit of poking around on the internet.
The facts I uncovered…
The book has sold more than five million copies!
Ah, but can it claim, like my own SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME, to have won the coveted slot of #52 on Amazon’s Top 100 Private Investigator Mysteries?
What’s that you say?
Something about sour grapes on my part?
I have to admit there might be something in that…especially in light of the fact that Finn got a $2,000,000 advance for WOMAN and a second, yet-to-be written book, and sold the film rights for $1,000,000.
But let’s dig a little deeper as did NEW YORKER writer Ian Parker, who recently revealed that A. J. Finn is really Dan Carmody, an editor at William Morrow, the house that published WOMAN.
Now, in a world where most of the best-selling mystery novels are written by women, it probably makes sense to fib about your name and lay claim to something androgenous like “A. J.” It’s a practice that goes back at least 200 years when the situation was reversed and the literary world belonged almost exclusively to men—when, for example, Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin presented herself to her readers as “George Sand.”
But according to Parker, Dan Carmody’s fibs went a bit further than that. It turns out, in fact, that he was engaged in…dare we say it…outrageous lies about himself and his family long before he (or A. J. Finn) ever published WOMAN, shocking distortions of the facts apparently designed to create sympathy, to impress, to promote his career.
He repeatedly claimed his mother was dying or dead. She is not.
He claimed to hold a doctorate in literature from Oxford University. He does not.
He claimed his father was dead. He is not.
He claimed that his brother died of suicide. He did not.
(This is clearly someone who needs to stay in closer touch with his family.)
He also claimed that THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW is an original piece of work.
A number of commentators have pointed out the many, many points of similarity between WOMAN and Sarah A Denzil’s SAVING APRIL, a British thriller published two years before old A. J.’s book. (You can check out thoughtsonpapyrus.com for a compilation of the similarities.)
Now A. J./Dan denies that he was in any way influenced by Denzil’s work, and he has a dated outline to prove it.
The parallels between the two books, however, are so close that WOMAN seems more like a heavy rewrite of APRIL than a piece of original storytelling.
So there’s the story behind the story, and the really remarkable part is that none of the accusations against Finn/Mallory have made any difference.
We’ve had the occasional Teflon politician. Now, it seems we have a Teflon writer.
THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW continues to sell. A. J./Dan, snuggled in amongst his piles of profit, is hard at work on his next book. His future? Unlimited.
This is, I think, a story for our times.
Lie. Cheat. Steal.
Then…lie, cheat and steal some more.
This is clearly a guy who’s wasting his time writing books. He should run for office. After all, that’s where the real money’s to be made.