A wannabe writer who’s a real jerk writes a bestseller in an eerie fashion.
There’s been a wealth of spooky comic-horror novels in recent years, and this wonderfully bizarre entry from multimedia scribe and Emmy Award–winning Veep writer Quantick (Go West, 2019, etc.) definitely fits the bill. Set in 1979 in a small town in rural Illinois, the book concerns one Todd Milstead, an aspiring writer who is introduced in the first line as “an asshole” and is later described by one of the handful of people who actually like him as a “pompous, vain, arrogant, self-obsessed, rude bastard.” He drinks too much, cheats on his wife, lectures his friends, and generally behaves as described. While the character himself is deeply unpleasant, it’s worth reading to the end of Quantick’s deceptive puzzle-box of a novel. The biggest change in Todd’s life comes when he uses his eidetic memory to copy word for word a now-obscure 1966 bestselling novel called All My Colors by a writer named Jake Turner. To Todd’s surprise, his copy of the novel, which he's published under his own name, becomes a runaway hit. The middle sags a bit with a painfully accurate portrayal of a book tour, but Quantick gives away just enough strangeness amid Todd's perpetual breakdown to keep the reader going. Following a divorce, Todd hires a seedy private eye to follow his ex-wife and her new lover, who doesn’t seem to appear in photographs. Two of his friends die under mysterious circumstances, and Todd himself is stalked by an enigmatic biker, not to mention the weight of his own guilt over his massive duplicity and the certainty that he’s sure to get caught. As a satire of the writing life, it’s less effective, but as a twisty and fitfully funny episode of The Twilight Zone, it’s a blast.
A caustic, unexpected comic horror story in which the villain, as always, thinks he’s the hero.