It turns out that the release date of the film has been delayed until 2020 after test screenings allegedly confused audiences and re-shoots have been ordered.
The film itself, as mystery/thriller/drama is about an agoraphobic woman who spends time observing/spying upon the world outside her window. She sees something which causes reality to shift and which, like other films of its type (ie Gone Girl) makes the lead character, and the audience unsure of what is real and what is imagined. The director is the excellent Joe Wright and the cast looks great (cannot beat anything with Gary Oldman and Julianne Moore) so hopefully the new planned release date (May 2020) will be realised.
However, this is not the story here…
The story is actually about the author, AJ Finn – the pseudonym of Dan Mallory. Mallory is an American author. The Woman in the Window was his first novel which many publishing houses sought to publish. It hit the top of best sellers lists and deals were secured for the manuscript in 37 different territories. Unsurprisingly, this subsequently generated a lot of interest in Mallory and his work.
In February 2019 Ian Parker published an extraordinary article in the New Yorker accusing Mallory of fabricating illnesses and periods of brain cancer related ill health. Parker further reported that Mallory did not, as he had told employers, have a PhD from Oxford. It also appeared that several members of Mallory’s family continued to be apparently well despite Mallory telling others that his family were dead due to cancer and his brothers suicide. Parker reported that former colleagues of Mallory formed the view that he was ruthlessly and wilfully deceptive in order to get what he wanted with some suggesting that they felt ‘unnerved’ by him.
Mallory responded in a statement in which he acknowledged that he had never had cancer but implied he did as a cover for his struggles with bi-polar disorder which, to some extent, he also blamed for what he referred to as delusional thoughts. In a subsequent Observer interview Mallory blamed depression for absences from work which, at the time, he said were related to ill health caused by a brain tumour.
As Leo Benedictus reminds us, in his February 2019 Guardian article about authors who fabricate literary personas, fiction writers are fantasists and story tellers for a living. Where should we, as readers, draw a line about the ways and means through which an author and their work gains traction? I don’t know if Mallory is a ruthless albeit somewhat perverse narcissist who dances into best seller lists and film options on the back of a useful mental ill health pony, or whether he actually does experience a serious mental health condition – and one he is ‘intensely ashamed’ of.
Mallory has, according to a quote in Benedictus’s article, suggested that readers are not interested in authors biographies and perhaps he is right. I do not suppose for a moment that anyone will choose not to see the film because of the Mallory story. Whether we see publishing houses clamouring for future works by AJ Finn remains to be seen.