Connor Joyce is an author, though he’s hardly a household name. In the opening chapter, our unidentified narrator sees that Connor is having a reading at a local bookstore. The narrator, having a connection with Connor from doing an interview with him years earlier, attends the reading and is embarrassed that only one other person has shown up for the event.
But the moment reconnects our narrator and Connor Joyce and Connor, desperate to tell someone his story, shares it with our narrator (and hence, with the reader).
Connor, it would seem, being an author looking for that big contract with a publisher that would guarantee a sizable income for a few years, is approached by a stranger with an offer … a lucrative, but unusual offer. Our mystery man, Dex Dunford, is willing to pay $2.5M for an original Connor Joyce manuscript. But there’s a catch, of course. The book will never be published, there can be no copies of it, and Connor must never tell anyone about it. The penalties for breaking the contract go beyond the return of the money – Connor suspects his life would be in danger.
To prove he fully intends to honor his part of the bargain, Dex Dunford shows Connor the original manuscripts by J. D. Salinger, Norman Mailer, Harper Lee, etc. The writers on that list of Dex Dunford authors are writers who became recluses with limited or no published manuscripts after writing for Dex. But $2.5 Million is a good amount of money, and Connor agrees to the terms, only to regret it later.
Connor, you must understand, is a writer of crime fiction and not long after turning in his manuscript and receiving his final payment, a crime is committed by the exact means he uses in his Dex manuscript. But he can’t go to the police to explain it because it’s in his contract not to talk about it. And Dex could easily blackmail him because he created the idea, and committed it to writing – writing of which Dex has the only copy.
Connor struggles with what he should do with his knowledge of the events.
There are some really interesting ideas in this book and author Adam Langer’s prose is hypnotizing … which is a little bit deceiving. We can get so caught up in the language that we don’t realize that everything is happening at a snail’s pace.
Our introduction and set-up of who Connor Joyce is takes up nearly the first quarter of the book alone, and we have to meet Connor before we meet Dex and finally hear the offer. And then Connor has to struggle with whether or not to accept the offer before the ‘action’ of the story takes place.
And while the concept of a billionaire being interested in collecting one-of-a-kind original manuscripts is really fascinating, we can’t help but wonder “Why Connor?” He doesn’t seem to fit in to the same crowd as Salinger, Lee, Mailer and so on. We’re told it’s because of his uncanny ability to write crime fiction and Dex apparently wants to commit a crime that would never be solved, but … really? That’s what this entire novel is all about?
Looking for a good book? The Salinger Contract by Adam Langer is an enjoyable read in the moment because of Langer’s prose and clever concept, but the story doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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The Salinger Contract
author: Adam Langer
publisher: Open Road Media
paperback, 269 pages