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Colapinto, John, "About the Author: A Novel" Hardback Book

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About the Author's Cal Cunningham calls himself a writer, but he's too busy--or too scared--to sit down and actually write anything. He spends his days working as a bookstore stock boy and his nights chasing tail in the bars of Manhattan. Sunday mornings, he spins tales about his conquests to his roommate, a reclusive, hard-working law student named Stewart Church. When Stewart is killed in auto accident, Cal finds in Stewart's desk a novel--a brilliant novel--based on Cal's own exploits. Cal is appalled, and then inspired. He sends the novel off to New York's leading literary agent, claiming it as his own. The book is a smash hit, and as he claims the rewards of literary lionization, Cal convinces himself that he is, really, at bottom, responsible for the writing of the book, if not exactly its author. Things get a bit more complicated when he hooks up with Stewart's ex-girlfriend Janet, eventually marrying her.

The novel convincingly portrays Cal's determined delusion that everything has worked out just as it was meant to be. As he kisses Janet, he thinks how "Stewart's ghost had turned out to be a benevolent specter after all, his spirit helping to shape my destiny, to guide both Janet and me to this moment." Which is all well and good, till Cal discovers that someone else is in possession of a copy of the original manuscript. Author John Colapinto weaves together a farcical tale of literary ambition and a cat-and-mouse thriller as Cal and his blackmailer pursue each other to the very death. --Claire Dederer

From Publishers Weekly
Cal Cunningham, the engaging, "panther-thin" protagonist of Colapinto's intrepid first foray into fiction (after his nonfictional debut As Nature Made Him) is an author with writer's block, struggling to acquire the "monastic absorption" needed to pen his autobiography and be freed from a meager existence as a bookstore stock boy. His dreams of success are further dashed when reclusive law student-roommate Stewart presents a brilliant short story he's written, and after some digging on the sly, Cal discovers a scandalous, novel-length manuscript recounting the sordid details of his own womanizing life. When Stewart is killed in a biking accident, a resentful, envious Cal adopts the manuscript, Almost Like Suicide, as his own and courts Stewart's old girlfriend Janet, too. Aided by flawlessly rendered literary agent Blackie Yeager, who sells the novel for millions, Cal lands a monetary and media windfall. Eventually moving to New Halcyon, Vt., to marry Janet, his perfect if duplicitous life is interrupted by the arrival of a stranger claiming to have Stewart's laptop computer containing the original manuscript; Cal's messy, disastrous comeuppance, involving blackmail and murder, takes over the second half of the novel. Publishing-savvy readers (and those who enjoyed Donald Westlake's The Hook) will find Colapinto's depiction of Cal's book tour and the many "particularly excruciating" television interviews he must undergo hilariously apropos. Cal's surplus of manic rationalizations overwhelm some taut, well-realized suspenseful moments, and Colapinto's feel-good though immensely implausible ending will sweetly satisfy, but not without leaving a bitter aftertaste of injustice. Still, this is a fine first effort from an emerging voice in fiction.
Competing claims of authorship haunt this highly ironic and ultimately winning debut novel about a literary theft gone terribly wrong. Cal Cunningham, who like F. Scott Fitzgerald, emigrates to New York from Minnesota, is a self-described writer with one major problem: he can't seem to write anything. Cal lives in a squalid Washington Heights apartment with Stewart Church, a dull lawyer who seems to lack any artistic ambition whatsoever. While the procrastinating Cal has been "storing up" material for his attempt at the great American novel, Stewart secretly has been writing a novel of his own, entitled Almost Like Suicide. In a moment of supreme irony, Cal learns that Stewart's secret novel is actually about Cal's life --- a dissipated life dominated by skirt chasing, daydreaming about becoming a great novelist, and working at a bookstore.

When Cal sneaks into Stewart's room to find and read the hidden manuscript, he comes to a horrible realization: "I was a poseur, a fraud, an artist manqué, and always would be. It was Stewart who was the writer; Stewart who would realize all my fantasies of literary success[.]" Yet it was not to be. While riding his bike, Stewart is struck and killed by a taxicab. The jealous Cal, confronted with a brilliant unpublished manuscript and a dead author, convinces himself that Almost Like Suicide is as much his book as Stewart's. In Cal's estimation, Stewart has acted as a glorified secretary, taking mere dictation about Cal's life. He then decides to take the manuscript and publish it under his own name.

Cal gets an agent, the hilariously serpentine Blackie Yaeger, who makes a blockbuster deal for the book's movie and publishing rights. Needless to say, complications arise. Cal again steps into Stewart's shoes, this time in the realm of romance, when he falls hopelessly in love with Janet --- a woman who Stewart loved and to whom he sent Almost Like Suicide before his untimely death.

Cal and Janet marry, and everything seems to be going perfectly. He's become a critically acclaimed best-selling author and he's found the love of his life. But when a woman from Cal's skirt chasing past moves into the small Vermont town where Cal lives with Janet, she proceeds to blackmail Cal and make his life a guilt-ridden hell. Les knows all. She wants money and, later, she wants Cal to join her in a drug smuggling operation. But Cal is as paralyzed in crime as he is in his writing. When he finally confesses everything in a tale involving deception, blackmail, and murder, he has nothing left but to publish a bestseller about the whole affair, entitled About the Author.

Colapinto knows the ropes of envy and loathing in the literary underworld. There is, he tells us, something terribly seductive about the allure of literary fame. And how many writers have wanted the rewards of literary fame (money, fans, adoring interviews) without having to do the requisite hard work? Colapinto explores the meaning of literature in both its commercial and artistic realms, with the former taking increasing preponderance. ABOUT THE AUTHOR is a classic page-turner, a delightfully breezy dark comedy you're sure to enjoy.


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