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Alone Along Writers' Roads
Tom Wood, author
In Chicago, Davis Quigley has grown tired of his career as a beat broadcast reporter where the story rarely changes, and lands a publishing deal for his debut novel that aims to question the ultimate purpose of justice. Meanwhile Catherine Dallas’s first novel becomes a best seller practically overnight while she is still attending college in Massachusetts– launching her into the national spotlight. Over in Connecticut, Brady Harvey writes a self-published memoir while serving a prison sentence. Seemingly unaware of one another, their lives gradually clash into a triangle as Davis and Catherine kindle a love that drives Brady to kill for what he claims is his and his alone. A tale filled with building suspense and mystery that ultimately connects these three writers forever, Alone Along Writers Roads explores the stories we create, and the stories we tell ourselves, to understand the good, the bad, and the unexplained parts of life.
Wood debuts with an intriguing novelist-themed thriller deeply concerned with the act of writing and its impact on the world. Davis Quigley, frustrated with the routine of his work as a radio news writer, launches his writing career with a novel that highlights how the American justice system unsympathetically ignores the reasons people commit crimes. When his new agent sends him into the contentious political talk show circuit, Davismeets pundit and fellow immigrant sympathizer Catherine Lane, a successful novelist herself, and pivots that connection into romance. Meanwhile, bipolar Brady Harvey succeeds in petitioning for a move from the mental hospital to supervised home confinement, but his obsession with the high school crush that provoked his crimes does not stay limited to the novel he is writing about their ersatz relationship.

Obsessions, unexpected connections, and a resonant frustration with the business of publishing all abound, as Wood demonstrates high ambitions for exploring the relationship between fiction, real life experience, and the impact of writers in the larger world. A tangle of subplots includes Quigley’s hopes to open discussion on justice, the appeal of Catherine’s depiction of college life to contemporary students, the dubious ethics of agent Sandra pushing her lover to invent a better hook for a biography he’s written, and the public obsession with Brady’s self-published novel once he becomes a high-profile criminal. These ambitious themes build to insights and surprises, though readers might wish that the novel explores the written craft of more of its cast of authors. Brady’s disordered writing, the only in-character prose here, provides some of the strongest, most engaging characterization.

A core twist is teased early, but well-planted shocks cutting short some publishing drama are a testament to Wood’s refusal to play things safe. This literate thriller succeeds in making writers’ lives engaging while still honoring the truth of them, the “long, lonely months of writing, rewriting, and incorporating changes”—and, of course, the resentments, grievances, and, yes, even the rewards.

Takeaway: Idea-driven thriller of novelists, publishing, and obsession.

Comparable Titles: Jean Hanff Korelitz’s The Plot, Catherine McKenzie’s Fractured.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A