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Dublin: 4 °C Monday 20 January, 2020

Sitdown Sunday: Is the writer Dan Mallory really who he says he is?

Settle back in a comfy chair and sit back with some of the week’s best longreads.

IT’S A DAY of rest, and you may be in the mood for a quiet corner and a comfy chair.

We’ve hand-picked the week’s best reads for you to savour.

1. He committed murder… would you hire him as your lawyer?

Bruce Reilly served time for a 1992 murder. He went on to train as an attorney, and now works for an organisation that advocates for people who have been in jail. This article asks: would you hire him?

(New York Times, approx 16 mins reading time)

Mr. Reilly was often the most effective legal adviser his fellow inmates ever consulted. He spent hundreds of hours studying case law in the prison library and wrote dozens of petitions, briefs and motions. He helped at least two fellow prisoners reduce their sentences by several years. “It was like magic to people — like mixing chemicals,” said his friend Steven Parkhurst, who is still in prison. 

2. Questions about the Godfather of Soul

This three-part series looks at soul singer James Brown, and some major questions around him and his life. Was his wife murdered? And did he rape a woman?

(CNN, three-part series)

Two years ago, I got a phone call from a woman who sang in the circus. She said she could prove that James Brown had been murdered. I met her on a hot day near Chicago, where the big top was rising and the elephants were munching hay. The singer’s name was Jacquelyn Hollander. She was 61 years old. She lived in a motor home with two cats and a Chihuahua named Pickles. She had long blond hair and a pack of Marlboros. She said she was not crazy, nor was she lying, and she hoped I would write her story, because it might save her life.

3. Who is AJ Finn?

This story has been fascinating and infuriarting people all week. The author Dan Mallory – AJ Finn – is the focus of an investigation into whether he’s been entirely truthful about his life.

(New Yorker, approx 1 hour reading time)

Moreover, according to many people who know him, Mallory has a history of imposture, and of duping people with false stories about disease and death. Long before he wrote fiction professionally, Mallory was experimenting with gothic personal fictions, apparently designed to get attention, bring him advancement, or to explain away failings. “Money and power were important to him,” a former publishing colleague told me. “But so was drama, and securing people’s sympathies.”

4. The price of life

Orkambi (which we have covered extensively here on is a drug for cystic fibrosis patients. But how do you determine who should access it or not?

(The Guardian, 24 mins listening time)

When Carlie Pleasant was nine, her parents were told she would not live beyond 15. Her diagnosis was cystic fibrosis, a genetic condition that results in a build-up of mucus in the lungs, making it hard to breathe. Pleasant, who is now 29 with a husband and a son, lives in fear that cystic fibrosis will cut short her life. 

5. Women-only coworking spaces

In the US, there’s a women-only coworking space called The Wing. It’s been the source of some controversy (for being gender-specific) but at the same time it has been lauded for giving women a networking space that normally wouldn’t exist for them. This very in-depth article is a great read about coworking, The Wing, and the many different debates around it.

(Vox, approx 23 mins reading time)

When Donald Trump won instead, Gelman told Vox, “things got so dark, and women were locking arms with one another in ways that they never had before.” They wanted “spaces where they could come together … to advance whatever professional goals that they had, but also to feel that there was an alternative from what they were experiencing in the world.”

6. The truth about abuse

A lot of people are talking about the new Netflix series Abducted in Plain Sight, and utterly bizarre and disturbing it is. It centres on the story of Jan Broberg, who was groomed and abused by a man called Bob Berchtold. This article looks at how abusers can get away with abusing.

(The Guardian, approx 12 mins reading time)

How could they have let him hang around their children when his obsessive interest in Jan was so obvious that even her two younger sisters could see it? How could they have allowed him to sleep with Jan in her bed for six months? And how could they have stayed close to him after the first time she went missing with him?


In 2017, Down East featured the story of Pat Gallant-Charette, who wanted to beat a global marathon swimming challenge.

(Down East, approx 17 mins reading time)

Suddenly, around 2 a.m., she started yelling. Something had knocked into her legs. The boat crew snapped on a spotlight and scanned the surface. Gallant-Charette treaded water. If she so much as touched the boat, her swim, the sixth leg of a challenge called the Oceans Seven, would be disqualified. She thought about a friend, stalked by a tiger shark in these same waters, who’d recently had to quit a swim several hours in.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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