US publishing sensation The Woman In The Window was bought for a seven-figure sum
When the manuscript was ready the neophyte novelist submitted it to his astounded agent who quickly sent it out to publishers in the hope of striking a deal.
Mallory was stunned by the response. Not only did The Woman In The Window become an overnight publishing sensation with an army of ecstatic editors engaged in a seven-figure bidding war to publish it – the dream of every first-time author – but when the worldwide auction was concluded the top bidder turned out to be the very publishing house that employed him.
His colleagues at William Morrow initially had no idea that the secretive AJ Finn was in fact their own man. They soon found out. Not only did the novel secure Mallory deals in 38 different territories including the UK – where it will be launched on Thursday – the film rights were snapped up by Fox 2000 Pictures before it was even published.
It also became the first debut novel in 12 years to enter the New York Times bestseller list at number one when it went on sale in the US three weeks ago.
THE thriller, which is being talked of as the natural successor to Gillian Flynn’s 2014 blockbuster Gone Girl and Paula Hawkins’ 2015 thriller The Girl On The Train, is about an agoraphobic who witnesses what appears to be a shocking act of violence while curtaintwitching at her New York City townhouse.
Bestselling horror writer Stephen King found Mallory’s novel “unputdownable”. Gillian Flynn was, if anything, even more impressed: “Astounding. Thrilling. Amazing” was her awestruck verdict.
The buzz for The Woman In The Window has been building for some time according to Andrew Lownie, one of the UK’s top literary agents. “There was a lot of pre-publication publicity including proof copies being sent out to opinion formers for pre-review last year,” he says.
“Such campaigns don’t always work but the timing was good. The vogue for psychological thrillers continues.
“It became one of the books of the 2016 Frankfurt Book Fair with numerous foreign deals done over the course of the week and the momentum has continued, cleverly controlled by Mallory’s publishers.”
Dan Mallory’s The Woman In The Window was bought for a seven-figure sum
The author’s own astute understanding of the publishing business – and what sells – has clearly paid off in grand style.
Having made a successful first career in closely assessing the literary style of authors such as Karin Slaughter, Peter Robinson and Nicci French as publisher at the British mass-market crime imprint Sphere in London, Mallory was well placed to understand what might elevate a good idea for a psychological crime thriller into a highly saleable one.
He also studied the art of the crime novel at Oxford University as part of his postgraduate work so his instincts were certainly more acutely attuned than most firsttime authors.
All he needed was a style and a subject and here he did not have to go far for his inspiration. “It is often said that good writers borrow, great writers steal,” admits Mallory. “If I had not read the work of Gillian Flynn or Kate Atkinson [award-winning author of Behind The Scenes At The Museum] I would not have written the book I did.”
Having studied their style closely he says that his character, the paranoid and unstable Anna who spends her days watching old film noir and Hitchcock movies when she is not scrutinising the neighbours through the zoom lens on her camera, “strode into my brain, lugging her story behind her”.
It was while taking time off from work and watching the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock classic Rear Window at home one day that Mallory says “a light flared in my peripheral vision and I saw that a neighbour had turned on a light and that is when the book idea took root”.
James Stewart and Grace Kelly in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window
In the Hitchcock thriller a wheelchair-bound photographer spies on his neighbours from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder. It took Mallory a year to write his take on this idea, gazing out at the lives on display in the houses opposite.
But for all the careful plotting of his novel and introduction of filmic devices that he knew would work on the big screen, Mallory also appears to have quite a lot in common with his main character Anna.
AN UNPOPULAR child, Mallory spent his weekends “feasting” on Hitchcock marathons and film noir retrospectives at the arthouse cinema near his home. And, like Anna, he suffered from mental health issues, which worsened at Oxford.
There he focused his attention on the psychological thrillers of Patricia Highsmith. Mallory says he was interested in the way Highsmith’s protagonist, the con artist and serial killer Tom Ripley – portrayed by Matt Damon in the 1999 film The Talented Mr Ripley – was able to escape the normal consequences of his actions. The author says his publishing credo is “Must have plot”.
Film producer Scott Rudin
Film producer Scott Rudin clearly agrees. He won an Oscar in 2008 for No Country For Old Men, a movie based on Cormac McCarthy’s bestselling 2005 novel of the same name.
Mallory admits he is hoping for a walk-on part in the film of his own book. All this, and the milliondollar advance, means that the man who left publishing last year to work on his second novel is now experiencing the sort of attention he has spent years orchestrating for others.
AJ Finn will be interviewed by the crime writer Ruth Ware at the London branch of Waterstones on Piccadilly tomorrow at 6.30pm.
To order The Woman In The Window by AJ Finn (Harper Collins, 12.99) with free UK delivery, call the Express Bookshop with card details on 01872 562 310. Or send a cheque/PO payable to Express Bookshop to: Window Offer, PO Box 200, Falmouth TR11 4WJ or order online at expressbookshop.co.uk