Famous Writers I Have Known

James Magnuson, Author
James Magnuson. Norton, $25.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-393-24088-7
Open Ebook - 336 pages - 978-0-393-24278-2
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-393-35081-4
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At the start of the latest from Magnuson (The Hounds of Winter), New York City hustler Frankie Abandonato finds himself on the lam, hiding from the mob after a con gone wrong leaves his partner dead. Hopping on the next plane out of New York’s La Guardia, Frankie is mistaken for a famous author, the reclusive, J.D. Salinger-like V.S. Mohle, who was supposed to be on the same flight, but was scared off by a celebrity hound just before boarding. After the plane touches down in Austin, Tex., a trio of Mohle’s young fans whisk Frankie away to an elite writing program where the great man is slated to teach. The latest from Magnuson (The Hounds of Winter) weaves and bobs between Frankie’s attempts to become Mohle—learning the lingo of writers, giving readings, heading workshops—and his dealings with novelist Rex Schoeninger, Mohle’s oldest rival and the writing program’s chief benefactor. Learning Rex has $20 million in the bank, Frankie concocts an elaborate scheme to steal the elderly man’s fortune. Part satire of the creative writing industry (MFAs, awards, egos), part snappy grifter tale, this novel is a fast, fun read. Magnuson’s writing is strong, though his characters’ relationships sometimes lack believability. Agent: Emily Forland, Brandt and Hochman. (Jan.)
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