Onyx reviews: The Storyteller
by Arthur Reid
Steven (with a v) King toils as a bartender by day and labors over his
literary novels by night. His work has so far been unsuccessfully represented to
the publishing world by his power-agent brother-in-law, Stuart. His writing
career take a sudden turn for the better when his friend and writing mentor, Ben
Chambers, dies and Steven falls heir to a trunk containing dozens of highly
commercial manuscripts. He convinces himself that he's following the spirit of
Ben's last wishes by retyping one of the novels and putting his ancestral name,
Steven Konigsberg, on the title page.
The book takes the industry by storm, a veritable Da Vinci Code of success.
Steven can deliver follow-ups as often as his publisher wants—all he has to do
is spend a few days retyping another manuscript. Once he's a regular bestseller,
he rummages around in the trunk for a children's book or two for a change of
Konigsberg becomes a publishing juggernaut. Stuart drops his other clients to
concentrate on his brother-in-law, the moneymaking machine. Konigsberg's books
breathe new life into an ailing publisher. Steven also finds success with his
own literary fiction, but these books are published under a pseudonym. He can't
take public bows when his first novel appears briefly on the bestseller list and
is short-listed for the National Book Award.
Steven's girlfriend, unaware of Steven's deception, isn't pleased by how their
lifestyle has changed. She'd rather live in a sleepy rural community, but New
York is where the action is—the meetings, the parties, the readings—and
Steven relishes the attention as much as the wealth. Steven's old college
professor, who Steven credits with encouraging him to pursue his writing,
believes Steven has sold out for cheap commercial success.
People from Ben Chambers' past start coming out of the woodwork once they
realize what Steven is doing. His carefully established fašade begins to
crumble when their demands for hush money roll in. He can afford to pay the
leeches off as long as necessary, but sooner or later his bubble is going to
burst. The only questions are: when and how? And, more importantly, how is he
going to survive the fallout if his fraud is revealed to his girlfriend, agent,
publisher and legion of fans.
Arthur Reid is the pseudonym for a husband-wife team with years of experience as
publisher and editor, respectively, so they know whereof they speak. They
understand how one successful author can change an agency or publishing house,
and how success affects the author's life, too. They use Konigsberg's
achievements to skewer the industry and comment on the long-running debate over
literary versus popular commercial fiction, a timely discussion considering the
recent controversy over the National Book Award medal given to Stephen (with a
Reid doesn't wait until Steven is at the top to start punching holes in his
artifice and Steven's frantic scramble to satisfy everyone who wants a piece of
him—for legitimate reasons or otherwise—makes for a taut thriller with a
literary sense of humor. What makes it all work is the fact that Steven is—in
spite of his flaws and deceit—likable and sympathetic.
For good measure, Reid throws in an O. Henry-esque twist in the final pages that
casts Steven's deception in a new and poignant light. The Storyteller
proves that suspense can be created without car chases, bank robberies, foreign
intrigue or centuries-old cabals.
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