Dan Mallory, who uses the pseudonym A.J. Finn and wrote 2018’s wildly popular novel The Woman in the Window, has admitted to lying about having brain cancer, blaming the long-running fabrication on his mental illness.
His admission is part of a stunning 12,000-word investigative piece published on The New Yorker website for its Feb. 11 edition. It examines accusations from numerous people who say Mallory “has a history of imposture, and of duping people with false stories about disease and death.”
Mallory lied to co-workers and friends for several years about having brain cancer, The New Yorker reported. Around 2010, he told people he had an inoperable brain tumor, and in 2013, he alleged that he had undergone surgery for the tumor. None of this was true.
He also told some people that his mother was dead and that his brother had died by suicide, according to The New Yorker. Both are still alive.
Read The New Yorker’s illuminating investigation into Mallory’s lies.
Mallory, who has been open about his struggles with mental illness in recent years, said in a statement to The New Yorker that his severe bipolar II disorder had caused him to have “delusional thoughts” and “memory problems” that played a role in his fabrications.
“It’s been horrific, not least because, in my distress, I did or said or believed things I would never ordinarily say, or do, or believe ― things of which, in many instances, I have absolutely no recollection,” Mallory said in the statement.
He continued: “It is the case that on numerous occasions in the past, I have stated, implied, or allowed others to believe that I was afflicted with a physical malady instead of a psychological one: cancer, specifically. ... With the benefit of hindsight, I’m sorry to have taken, or be seen to have taken, advantage of anyone else’s goodwill, however desperate the circumstances; that was never the goal.”
Psychiatrists told The New Yorker that bipolar II disorder wouldn’t cause a patient to chronically lie for malicious purposes. Carrie Bearden, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA, told the magazine that blaming bipolar II disorder for such behavior is “very irresponsible” and could add to the “already huge stigma associated with these disorders.”
The Woman in the Window, a psychological thriller about an agoraphobic child psychologist who witnesses a crime while spying on her neighbors, debuted in the No. 1 spot on The New York Times’ best-seller list when it was released in January 2018. It was the first time a debut novel premiered at the top of the revered list.
Mallory fabricated stories about his life during appearances to promote his book last year, The New Yorker reported. In one instance, he told a crowd in Colorado that he had received a doctorate from Oxford University. False. He also claimed that The Cuckoo’s Calling, a novel written pseudonymously by J.K. Rowling, had been published on his recommendation while working at publisher Little, Brown, in London. He may have read a manuscript, The New Yorker reported, but the book’s publishing wasn’t thanks to him.
A paperback edition of The Woman in the Window is slated for release in the U.S. in March. A film adaptation of the book starring Amy Adams and Julianne Moore is scheduled to premiere in October.