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Rhode, William 1972-

RHODE, William 1972-

PERSONAL: Born 1972; married; children: one.

ADDRESSES: Home—413 West 48th St., New York, NY 10036. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Riverhead Books, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014.

CAREER: Novelist; formerly a journalist for Reuters news agency.


Paperback Original (novel), Riverhead (New York, NY), 2003.

SIDELIGHTS: William Rhode made his debut as a fiction writer with Paperback Original, a novel about a young man trying to write a novel. The story revolves around Joshua King, an English layabout living in India. When Joshua's father dies suddenly, he leaves his son a five million-dollar fortune with the stipulation that Joshua produce a best-selling book within five years. Not trusting in his own imaginative faculties, Joshua decides to place himself in dangerous situations and use his experiences as fodder for a literary work.

Like his hero, Rhode himself once worked as a journalist in India for Reuters news service, and his knowledge of life as an expatriate greatly informed the book's plot. Joshua King lives in a disreputable backpacker's hostel and writes for a paper called Hindu Week. To catapult himself into danger, he plans, with the help of a Dutch woman named Yasmin, to befriend and then steal from an Indian drug kingpin named Baba. The plot takes readers to several cities in India as Joshua progresses in writing his novel, a "paperback original."

While some criticized the circular conceit of novel-within-a-novel and questioned the likeability of its protagonist, reviewers often enjoyed Paperback Original's energetic and original plotline. Rob Thomas, in a review for Madison online noted: "Will Rhode kicks off his novel Paperback Original with a preposterous premise, and then has the good sense not to refer to it much for the rest of the book. . . . Paperback Original stays deliriously over the top as the action moves from Delhi to Mumbai . . . to Pushkar, and it seems every one of its short, punchy chapters adds a new twist or a new obstacle to Josh's quest. It's that constant, restless energy that keeps the pages turning." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly, in a somewhat more negative review, wrote that Joshua's actions "often seem merely silly and unpleasant rather than humorously over-the-top. There are also strained attempts to explore the connection between fiction, reality, and the creative process." "However," the contributor acknowledged, "Rhode's prose is brisk and clean. . . . The sheer originality of the plot keeps the pages turning."

In the Philadelphia City Paper, the reviewers wrote, "Right off the bat, the very worst thing about Paperback Original is its title. . . . Hinting that this book will be another self-referential, inside-joke-y, Gen-X novel about a writer writing about himself. And it is. Fortunately, that's only a starting point for Original," they reasoned. "Original comes off, in the end, as surprisingly successful genre fiction."



Publishers Weekly, March 24, 2003, review of Paperback Original.


Madison, (April 11, 2003), review of Paperback Original.

Philadelphia City Paper, (March 28, 2004), review of Paperback Original.*

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