About the Author

About the Author

4.6 5
by John Colapinto

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Despite a severe case of writer's block, Cal Cunningham dreams of writing an autobiographical novel that will permit him to escape from his life as a penniless bookstore stockboy in dirty and dangerous upper Manhattan. Cal's dreams are threatened when he learns that his law student roommate harbors secret literary ambitions of his own. Stewart has just finished


Despite a severe case of writer's block, Cal Cunningham dreams of writing an autobiographical novel that will permit him to escape from his life as a penniless bookstore stockboy in dirty and dangerous upper Manhattan. Cal's dreams are threatened when he learns that his law student roommate harbors secret literary ambitions of his own. Stewart has just finished writing a page-turning novel—based on Cal's life. When a timely, fatal bicycle accident removes Stewart from the scene, Cal appropriates the manuscript as his own, and places it in the hands of legendarily freocious literary agent Blackie Yaeger, who sells the book and movie rights for two million dollars. Propelled to the top of the bestseller lists, Cal finds that he has realized his most outlandish fantasies of literary success. That is, until he discovers that someone knows his secret.

Reminscent of Patricia Highsmith's gripping "Ripley" novels, About the Author is a psychological thriller that not only casts a knowing eye on the excesses of the current Manhattan publishing world, but touches on deeper themes of literary envy, identity, guilt, and the fatal difference between reality and imagination.

Editorial Reviews

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 isa fine first effort from an emerging voice in fiction. (Aug. 1) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Cal Cunningham gets his literary start in an apparently easy way when he steals his dead roommate Stewart's manuscript and has it published as his own. Before Stewart met his untimely end in a bicycle accident, Cal regarded him only as a boring, unimaginative law student who got his kicks from asking Cal about his nightly sex-in-the-city exploits. When Cal finds the novel, however, he discovers that his own life history forms the basis of Stewart's brilliant book about a boozing young slacker. For Cal, this provides sufficient rationale for theft. Cal thrills to instant literary acclaim, talk show circuits, and promises of movie deals until he learns that Stewart had shipped a first draft to an old girlfriend. In a severe sweat, he determines to find her, but soon a much more menacing individual makes her entrance. With just the right proportion of stress, humor, and suspense, Colapinto's fiction debut (after the nonfiction As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised As a Girl) keeps the reader turning pages. More suspenseful and with a more complex hero than Kurt Wenzel's Lit Life ( reviewed below), another first novel about the business of writing, this is highly recommended for all fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/15/00.] Sheila Riley, Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, DC Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A young New York writer (no--keep reading: it's actually good) capitalizes on the talent of his late roommate and hits it big. For a while. Such laughs as there are in this dark, deft comedy are nervous and sweaty, but the tension is the real thing in a smart literary thriller by the author of As Nature Made Him. Cal Cunningham, disowned for his authorial ambition by his physician father, dreams of pleasing his late book-loving mother with a literary career. But the clock has been ticking for years, and Cal's closest approach to the world of letters is a bookstore job that barely supports his after-hours debauchery. The only story-spinning on his schedule is the regular debriefing requested by Cal's nerdy flatmate Stewart Church, a near-monastic legal student who wants to hear all the details of Cal's dalliances in the fleshpots of Manhattan. Stewart's tolerance is tested when, after a night of gymnastic sex, one of Cal's sleazier conquests makes off with fenceable items from the flat, including Stewart's laptop. And Cal's tolerance is "really "tested when he learns that Stewart has been filling his nonlegal moments writing. Beautifully. Not only a flawlessly publishable short story, but a spectacularly good novel based entirely on all those anecdotes from the life of his wastrel roommate. The fates choose to have Stewart run over on his bicycle, and Cal, stepping in, instantly claims the book for his own. And it's a hit. A Hollywood contract leads to a huge sum and indirectly to a meeting with the only other person who might know about the real authorship, Stewart's beautiful, intelligent, totally wonderful ex-girlfriend. But that laptop the little popsypicked up in chapter one? It's back, still loaded with Stewart's original novel, and still in the clutches of the evil bit of crumpet. Cal's totally wonderful new life begins to unravel faster than you can turn the pages. The ending limps, but only after a sensational run.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.93(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

For reasons that will become obvious, I find it difficult to write about Stewart. Well, I find it difficult to write about anything, God knows. But Stewart presents special problems. Do I speak of him as I later came to know him, or as he appeared to me before I learned the truth, before I stripped away the mask of normalcy he hid behind? For so long he seemed nothing but a footnote to my life, a passing reference in what I had imagined would be the story of my swift rise to literary stardom. Today he not only haunts every line of this statement but is, in a sense, its animating spirit, its reason for being.

We were roommates. I moved into Stewart Church's New York apartment in the fall after my graduation from the University of Minnesota. In his Roommate Wanted ad in the Village Voice, he had described himself as a "First-year law student at Columbia University," and he looked every inch of it: tall and thin, with a doleful, high-cheek-boned face, carroty hair cropped close against the sides of his narrow skull, and greenish eyes that seemed rubbed to dullness from the hours spent scouring the microscopic print of his casebooks. Not that any of this was exactly a bad thing. It was just that Stewart did not fit my initial idea of the kind of person I would end up living with in Manhattan. I was an aspiring author and thus viewed my every action and utterance with an eye to how they would appear when fixed in imperishable print. As such, I considered myself to inhabit a higher plane of existence than people like Stewart. He so clearly belonged to the trudging armies of nonartists, of merehuman beings: the workaday drones who live out their unobjectionable lives, then pass, unremembered by all but their immediate families, into oblivion. But then, in a way, Stewart seemed to be exactly what I needed in a roommate: a cipher unlikely to distract me from what I thought would be my almost monastic absorption in the pursuit of literature.

Our apartment, a dark one-bedroom on the first floor of a prewar walk-up on West 173rd Street in Washington Heights, was obviously meant for a single occupant, or a childless couple. Both of us were broke at the time -- Stewart subsisting on a small scholarship, I toiling for minimum wage as a stockboy at Stodard's Books in Midtown. And so, with the resourcefulness common to twenty-three-year-olds in our era of diminished expectations, we devised a way to ensure each other a measure of privacy. I slept on a sofabed in the apartment's front room, an oblong chamber with a dirt-ingrained hardwood floor and chipped wall moldings; Stewart occupied the adjacent bedroom, a space almost identical to mine, with the same view out its windows of the back alley and the fire escapes of the neighboring tenement. The rest of the apartment -- a kitchen with small café table, a bathroom crammed with a claw-foot tub and a trickling toilet -- was communal.

There are only two conditions under which a pair of straight men can share such quarters: as buddies willing to overlook each other's peccadilloes, or as respectful strangers willing to stay out of each other's way. Stewart and I were the latter. Digging his way out from under what seemed an endless avalanche of essays and briefs, Stewart spent his time either shuttered in his room or squirreled away in the stacks of the law library. I, meanwhile, devoted myself to gathering the "material" that I hoped would one day comprise my autobiographical novel.

A word here about the womanizing that became my chief occupation during the two and half years that I lived with Stewart. I was not, in the accepted sense of the term, a sexual predator. For one thing, I was too poor for that. Unlike the double-breasted smoothies who used their gold cards and Rolexes to lure their quarry into cabs, I had nothing but my charm and what I can describe only as my sincerity to offer. My looks helped: an inch over six feet tall, panther-thin, with a strongly boned face softened by a tangled mass of black, Byronic locks, I had the kind of appearance that attracted all manner of females, from the lacquered gold diggers who bustled through the aisles of Stodard's Books to the porcelain-skinned, Amazon-limbed fashion models who slummed in East Village bars. Such women, who are the target of the true pickup artist, were never my first choice. No, it was the funky and bohemian artist girls who made my heart pound, the Cooper Union students with gesso-splattered shoes and Conté-rimmed fingernails who set me dreaming of a soul connection in lonesome New York. That these fierce, independent, talented girls would -- after an evening's talk about books, movies, paintings, music -- actually go to bed with me seemed, at first, too good to be true. Sure enough, it was. Although they would sleep with me once or twice, such women, I soon learned, had plans and dreams of their own, which emphatically did not include tying themselves down to one man. Again and again my efforts to convert one of these one-night stands into something long-term was met with rebuff. I continued to trawl the bars, but I could no longer kid myself that I was on a quest for permanent love.

I had worried, at first, that Stewart might take exception to the way I was conducting my romantic life. In this, he surprised me. He soon revealed a fascination with my adventures in New York nighttown. He first asked me about them one Sunday morning early in our roommatehood, after he had returned, flushed and sweating, from his weekly bike ride. Initially hesitant to offer up details, in case...

About the Author. Copyright © by John Colapinto. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are saying about this

Stephen King
A thriller worthy of Hitchcock at his best. I wasn't able to put it down. Splendid suspense.

Meet the Author

John Colapinto has written for Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Esquire, Mademoiselle, Us Weekly, and Rolling Stone, where the landmark National Magazine Award-winning article that was the basis for As Nature Made Him first appeared. He is also the author of the novel About the Author. He lives in New York City with his wife and son.

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About the Author 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
CarolineOhio More than 1 year ago
This was a great book! It found me rooting for Cal even though I wasn't sure I should be!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! It had humor, suspense, and finally, irony. It's a great reworking of "Don't wish too hard for something; you may get it." Cal Cunningham, desperate wannabe author, takes on way more than he bargained for when he decides to pass off his dead roommate's book as his own. All kinds of deception, blackmail, and mayhem ensue, with Cal's frantic attempts at damage control ratcheting up the excitement. Fun, fast-moving, well-written.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Picked up this book by chance and am sure glad I fell upon it. Have been in search of something as good as Donna Tartt's 'The Secret History' which shook my world and erased all else. Well, the wait is over. John Colapinto's book is all that, if not more. The plot, the narration, the wit, the suspence came together and the result is simply stunning. Go get a copy and enjoy it.