Algonquin executive editor Chuck Adams acquired Manuel Muñoz's debut novel, What You See in the Dark, to be published in March, based on a proposal. Agent Stuart Bernstein paired the novel with Muñoz's story collection, The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue, in a two-book deal. (The collection was shortlisted for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, and Muñoz won a Whiting Writers' Award in 2008.)
Adams comments, "As with most proposals, that one bore only scant resemblance to the final novel, but when I did read the first full draft of the novel, I realized that Manuel had created something very special—a complex novel that is so carefully done that it doesn't seem complex at all."
The novel follows a developing relationship between two young people in Bakersfield, Calif., in the 1950s, as a movie is filmed at a roadside motel—a movie the reader recognizes as Psycho. Muñoz recalls, "I took a class on Hitchcock as an undergraduate at Harvard. When I saw Psycho on a big screen, I noticed Janet Leigh drive past a sign for Gorman, California, a halfway point on the road between L.A. and the Central Valley, where I grew up."
Today, the 38-year-old Muñoz teaches creative writing at the University of Arizona. He took five years to write What You See in the Dark and will embark on a 10-city tour to promote the book, including a reading sponsored by Fresno Filmworks that will involve a screening of Psycho at the historic Tower Theatre.