Having become a famous author by publishing his wife's brilliant crime novels with his name on the cover, Henry Hayden creates his own devious fictions to avoid detection in a series of mysterious deaths.
Psychologically damaged since childhood—when his father, who abused him for bed-wetting, tripped down the basement stairs and died on the same day his mother disappeared—Hayden is a drifter with no human connections. Waking up hung over after sleeping with a stranger, Martha, he discovers a manuscript under her bed and is so impressed that he sends it off to publishers as his own. Martha, an oddball who writes books in the middle of the night and tosses the perfectly composed manuscripts in the cellar, is fine with that. After Hayden marries her, the first novel becomes a huge bestseller. Living large with a sports car and fancy clothes, he has an affair with his editor, Betty, who becomes pregnant with his child. It's only a matter of time, or so it seems, before he's exposed for the fake he is. But he remains master of his made-up world, even with the police breathing down his neck after first Martha and then Betty disappear and even with a stalker who knows everything about his past seeking vengeance. A cross between James M. Cain and Patricia Highsmith, with a wide streak of sardonic humor, this is one wicked tale. You keep waiting for the author to slip, plot-wise, but, as with his protagonist, you wait in vain.
German screenwriter Arango's first novel is superior pulp, with schemers all around and plenty to say about fame, identity, and mortality.