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The unbelievable story of ‘Woman in the Window’ author Dan Mallory’s scathing history of deception

How far are you willing to go in order to succeed? Will you play the game of deception and make people believe that you had a troubled childhood and lost family members to terminal illnesses? Would you carefully fabricate your life in such a way that would induce sympathy in the hearts of the people around you, enough to let you have what you want? What are you? A pathological liar? A deceptive manipulator? Daniel Mallory is the perfect definition of a Machiavellian character. Not only did he manage to manipulate his surroundings with his intense cunning, but also justified his conniving nature by feeding a bag of lies that were busted in a profile by Ian Parker in  The New Yorker

Known for his book, The Woman In the Window, that has recently been adapted into a Netflix film, helping him earn millions, Dan Mallory wrote under the pseudonym of A.J. Finn. While there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the authenticity and originality of the book itself, Mallory is no alien to controversial moments as he has, on multiple occasions, been caught redhanded, feeding incessant lies laden with sad, melancholy stories to the audience and other people in the industry to garner sympathy. In this article, we take a look at how the sweet-talking, witty and mendacious man rose to the heights of success, resorting to scheming and unscrupulous means.  

Let us start off with the film. Directed by Joe Wright and starring Amy Adams, Julianne Moore and Gary Oldman, among others, this eponymous movie is about an agoraphobic woman named Anna Fox who is a child psychologist, confined in her Manhattan brownstone home, estranged from her husband and her daughter. The Russells move into a house across the street where she is befriended by the wife and son of her neighbours. Being a child psychologist, Anna is able to detect that Ethan Russell comes from a troubled home. One night, she witnesses Jane Russell being stabbed to death by her vile and controlling husband, Alistair. When she calls the cops on them, she is shocked to find that no murder has taken place. As she is declared mentally unsound and continues spiralling into the dark abyss, Anna quickly realises that nothing is what it seems to be and that Ethan is much more than what she bargained for. 

Mallory, a self-proclaimed Alfred Hitchcock fanatic, pays homage to the pioneering director by making his protagonist a fan of the same auteur. Hitchcock’s popular film Rear Window receives tribute as well, but Mallory forgets to credit a 1995 thriller film Copycat, the story of which is dreadfully similar. When Ian Parker alerted the director Jon Amiel, the latter was surprised yet did not want to take action immediately. Mallory credited his creative inspiration to a particular rendezvous with voyeurism after he watched the Hitchcock classic and later observed a neighbour from his apartment. One could easily believe Mallory, and it is understandable if he claims to have never watched Copycat. However, with his brilliant history of always speaking the truth, one cannot be so sure. 

Eloquent, well-read, merry and high-spirited, a self-proclaimed kind man who is a lover of French bulldogs, Dan Mallory hides behind this upbeat exterior a highly duplicitous and shady persona. Not only has he been caught lying multiple times, but he also remains painfully unfazed and justifies his actions extremely well. While one might feel at a loss, trying to wade through his neck-deep high waters of deception and lies, his claims about his ailing health seem to be an excellent place to start. Mallory is hungry for power and money, but even more for unbridled attention, collective validation and sympathy, as well as unnecessary drama. 

Mallory has always been very open about his battle with cancer. While the exact location of this malignant tumour varies with respect to the audience, Mallory’s colleagues were all left astonished and flabbergasted when they came to know none of it was true. In fact, Mallory had even impersonated his brother, Jake, while writing emails to his colleagues in London and New York, his account differing with respect to the recipient, taking about the highly complicated surgery Dan had to undergo which would render him a “half man and half machine”. 

Jake’s emails were incredibly witty, drawling and too Dan Mallory-esque to be true. While many of his colleagues bore suspicion, nobody ever called him out on it, the reason being that he was incredibly infamous for his conniving and cunning attitude, which prompted him to be feared by many who did not wish to get on his bad side. “Jake” would keep updating them about his fast-paced recovery. Mallor’s prolonged absence at his workplace was attributed to his alleged battle with cancer, but it always aroused suspicion. Mallory has repeatedly resorted to falsehood under the pretext of having cancer, even in his Oxford University application, where he even mentioned a tough life at home, which sounded weirdly convincing. 

Mallory was a strange man. Not only did he lie about being an editor at Ballantine when he was just an assistant, but he also exhibited a disgusting habit. While he worked at his boss Linda Marrow’s office there, people would spot cups filled with urine which was extremely degrading. After he left, these mysterious piss cups disappeared as well. Although he refused to accept blame, one cannot be too sure. Having resorted to lying about his professional abilities, Mallory often reported how difficult it was caring for his sick mother and mentally challenged brother who resided in the United States, accounting for his somewhat average performance at Oxford as he had to travel back and forth constantly. He claimed his mother was dead, yet Ian Parker had met her in his childhood home. She was alive and kicking yet refused to answer his questions because of her obvious loyalty to her son. His father, however, being the sweetheart that he seemed to be with his kind facial features, answered his questions honestly. He even said that Dan had no history of cancer. Although his wife suffered from cancer back in the days, which left a significant impact on Dan’s young mind, the latter never had any surgery. The senior Mallory even went on to say that Jake – given how close he was to Dan – would never write such false emails pertaining to his brother’s health. Something doesn’t quite add up, right? 

Gary Oldman as Alistair Russell. (Credit: Netflix)

The lies never stopped there. Dan Mallory does not even have a single PhD to his name, and he proclaims that he is a “double doctor”. Parker confirmed with Oxford, who said that Mallory never submitted his doctoral thesis, yet his father was under the impression that his son had already completed his doctoral work. After Dan spoke up about how he did not have cancer and how it was just a safety blanket and facade to hide his failing mental health, he claimed to have been diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. Experts have confirmed, however, that bipolar disorders can lead to violent mood swings yet cannot account for one making such falsetto statements for such prolonged periods of time, carefully furnishing the stories as and when required. His colleagues, though wary, have never felt the need to hold him accountable as it is merely “harmless” since he has never embezzled funds from anyone, nor has he showcased predatory behaviour. However, given the web of lies and deceit he has spun and trapped countless victims in, given the number of jobs and positions he has bagged with his easy-talking and free-flowing attitude, can he really be considered harmless? 

However, this leaves us to ponder over something deeply disturbing and thought-provoking. Who is this man in reality? Why would he fake his mother’s death and brother’s apparent suicide, his degrees and work experience to get where he is? He is talented and has a way with words, well-read and well-versed in various aspects, talking Hitchcock as fluently as possible. Would he really need this extra push to be where he is, or was it all just pointless? He is cocky, but he is talented; he has a poetic genius with a flair for writing terrific emails and wordplay, yet seems to be a letdown with his scheming attitude. His shadow reeks of deception, yet he is charming in his own way. After all this, we are left wondering, who is Dan Mallory? Is he just a construct? Is he lurking around in every corner, waiting to trick unsuspecting young minds into believing his lies? After seeing through his murky character, it is extremely difficult to dissociate him from the book. He is like Ethan, cunning, manipulative and vicious, using his allegedly broken and ailing family as a cover for his ulterior motives. While he has apologised for his actions profusely, talking about how he was deeply apologetic for having “taken advantage of anyone else’s goodwill”, in his statement to The New Yorker, Mallory’s “genuine” apology seemed, like his life, a twisted and fabricated perfectly imperfect mess that was supposed to be enough for the occasion. 

It is hard to watch the film without thinking about how Mallory allegedly used the pseudonym of A.J. Finn to avoid influencing the editors in their decision while they were reading the manuscript as he was aware of his influential position. Or was he simply trying to hide the real Dan Mallory, whose lying tendencies are well reflected in the characters of the book? Besides forging other lies, including ones like having worked on Tina Fey’s book or having influenced significant script changes in films like Final Destination, Mallory has, since his apology, been more focused on his work. His upcoming novel is said to be based in San Francisco, and this 42-year-old novelist is currently working hard on it. 

Dan Mallory is an illusory realm. As you dig deeper, you find yourself confronting unthinkable truths that are simply double-edged and ugly. As an attention-seeking man hungry for success, Mallory accomplished what he wanted, yet he cannot be redeemed. However, his publishers think otherwise, which indicate his ultimate victory. In their public statement, they said, “We don’t comment on the personal lives of our employees or authors. Professionally, Dan was a highly valued editor, and the publication of The Woman in the Window — a #1 New York Times bestseller out of the gate, and the bestselling debut novel of 2018 — speaks for itself.” 

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