nurse serif;”>Sinéad Slattery takes a look back at the 2010 novel from Adam Langer – ‘The Thieves of Manhattan’
Ian Minot is a short story writer living in Manhattan. Straight-up: he’s rather unsuccessful. “The Thieves of Manhattan” is partly the story of a country boy clutching at his big city dreams, partly a slightly jaded look at the publishing/writing industries in general.
Ian and his girlfriend Anya go to readings and book signings together – at one they meet Blade Markham, the latest top-selling memoirist. Ian thinks Markham’s a phoney and Anya is enthralled, either way his book is selling out; Ian can’t seem to concentrate long enough to write one.
Meeting a failed publisher, Jed Roth, nicknamed “The Confident Man”, Ian’s life begins to change. Roth proposes an idea to Ian regarding writing a fake memoir. Roth wrote a novel that nobody wanted – Ian can take the ideas from it, switch it up a little and tell the world the events actually happened to him. Roth says he’s read Ian’s stories. “They’re smart, well-turned, but the fact is, they’re just too quiet and small,” is what he tells Ian. “Nothing ever really happens in them; nothing much is at stake.” He knows how difficult it is for first-timers to get published, especially short story writers.
Having lost his job for refusing to take on Blade Markham’s memoir “Blade by Blade”. Roth and Ian connect over their hatred for the guy – ain’t no faster way to start a conversation than mutual hatred.
The plan means revenge for Roth against an industry and the people who have shunned him. Ian gets to make a name for himself and make people care about what he is writing. They’ll let the publishers print it, they’ll let the industry go crazy – then reveal it’s a fake; driving sales and the media wild.
Referencing the story of James Frey – author of the trumped up “memoir” ‘A Million Little Pieces’ – ‘The Thieves of Manhattan’ is an account of the attention seeking times we live in.
Langer who has written three novels and a memoir has personal experience in the fields the novel ploughs through. Literary references are slotted in through out the novel; a book has a Tolstoy amount of pages, a Golightly is a cocktail dress – displaying the writer’s talent and wit. While his main character is helpless when faced with events both real and imaginary, Langer is in complete control of his literary world.
Overall, the book is a witty and comical take on the book industry today. Langer delivers several good plot twists that keep you turning the pages – whilst simultaneously reminding you that leafing through a book may soon be a thing of the past.