Dan Mallory published the best-selling The Woman in the Window under the mysterious pen name, A. J. Finn. After years of praise for his genius mimicry of other writers and characters, New Yorker reporter Ian Parker uncovered Mallory’s history of falsifying life stories about disease and death to secure people’s sympathies, divert from his failures and sinister acts, and to further his career.

According to Parker, Mallory’s decision to write under a pen name is because publishing houses refused to accept his manuscript due to the reputation he has garnered as a disingenuous manipulator.

Some of Mallory’s lies include telling colleagues that his mother tragically died even though she is alive. Parker writes of a former colleague of Mallory’s, “I told Raine that Mallory’s mother was not dead. There was a pause, and then he said, ‘If she’s alive, he lied.’”

Mallory also started his master’s program at Oxford, but withdrew because he told others he had brain cancer. He went on to claim he had to PhDs, and presently admits he was never diagnosed with cancer.

In one interview, a radio host and writer Alex Dolan asks Mallory about the decision to set The Woman in the Window in Harlem. Mallory said he was trapped in a friend’s house’ bathroom “for twenty-two hours and ten minutes.”

Dolan, amazed at the anecdote, asked, “You had the discipline to, say, not kick the door down?”

To which Mallory replied, “I did eventually bore my way through it, but by that point my fingers were bloody, I was screaming obscenities. This is the point—of course—at which the father of the house walked in!”

Parker notes that the anecdote was never repeated by Mallory in any other interview, demonstrating yet another potential example of Mallory’s penchant for exaggerations and outright lies to build and brand his public image.

Given Mallory’s history of falsifying his qualifications to achieve goals, many wondered how the publishing industry continued to buy into his facade. According to Publishers Weekly, book publishing is 86% white. The publishing workforce is also 80% women but only 59% of management is made up of women.

Many in the publishing world took Mallory’s ambitious lies at face value as attractive and witty instead of thoroughly researching his history. Mallory’s supposed “genius” was really just a typical story of a white man overcompensating for his lack of originality.