Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Circle of Lies

I just finished reading a great detective novel titled Circle of Lies. About halfway through, it became irresistible. That was a pleasant surprise, as I had known that buying the book was a risk.

I chose Circle of Lies after wandering around the Mystery shelves at Barnes & Noble hoping for something new in paperback from one or another of my favorite authors. That’s the way many of us buy books, only that day it wasn’t going to happen so I took a chance on Circle of Lies even though I had not heard of the author, “Douglas Alan.”

The bio at the back of the book gave little information about Alan, mainly that he was from Atlanta. Author bios can be brief—privacy is a consideration--but generally they’re a bit friendlier than his. There was no photo, no hint of family, and no series of accomplishments. After starting the book and liking the first few pages, I began to want more information about Douglas Alan, so I went to the Internet.

I discovered that Douglas Alan isn’t his real name, but that wasn’t my big surprise. As reported on,, and other sites, Mitchell Gross is serving a 12 ½-year sentence in federal prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud and money laundering in 2012. It seems he scammed women out of millions of dollars after meeting them on the Internet.

In addition to Circle of Lies, Gross wrote a series of books called “The Fifth Ring” under the name Mitchell Graham. According to an article on, he also spun a few tales about his writing. For example, Gross claimed that one of his books won a contest and that his novels were being made into movies. In reality, he had made up the contest himself and had no film adaptations in the works.

After reading that information I felt foolish for buying a book written by a criminal, a scam artist, a flimflam man. I still read it; there is merit in separating the artist from his or her work. All the while I was thinking what a waste it was for a man with his writing talent to have gone down that other path, the one that landed him in jail.

Many of you know that I read with a pen nearby. When errors pop up, I fix them on the page, something that other editors will understand. Circle of Lies was so good that I hardly picked up my pen. It was well plotted, well written, and well edited. I would have read Douglas Alan’s next book, and his next, and his next—if that darn Mitchell Gross hadn’t interfered.

Now, that was a crime.