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Dan Cody, this strange and gripping novel's storyteller, is a man who needs to be in love‘passionately, recklessly, torturously in love‘but it's clear from the outset that truth is not one of his love objects. A former high-school teacher, Cody was serving a life sentence at Denning State Prison for murdering his wife. He claimed that she asked him to kill her because she was HIV-positive, and he loved her too much to watch her die of AIDS. At his trial, however, it couldn't be proved that she was even sick. Now, Cody has escaped with the help of the new object of his raptures, a prison nurse named Carol, whom the reader is meant to see as a thoroughly ordinary, even slatternly woman. Cody confesses the details of his jailbreak and expresses his frantic adoration of Carol in letters to the host of a talk show, who reads them aloud nightly to an enthralled TV audience. It becomes clear from the letters that Carol broke Cody out of prison for money, not for love, and that she was a mere helper, not the escape's real engineer. From this revelation onward, a creepily fascinating, eloquent portrait of a man nursing his delusions among some very rough trade spirals away into mayhem. Psychiatrist and novelist Anscombe (The Secret Life of Laszlo, Count Dracula) writes compellingly enough to make readers care about the ordeal of his intensely strange protagonist, though some will balk at certain details‘a nearly unendurable torture scene, and acts of self-sacrifice that defy belief. What begins as a memoir of powerful love ends up as a meditation on masochism‘and seems to suggest that they are much the same. $250,000 ad/promo; film rights optioned by Kevin Costner's TIG Productions/Warner Brothers; foreign rights sold in the U.K., Japan, France, Brazil, Holland and Sweden; author tour. (Oct.)

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