Nick Greer has been working on a biography of Frank Spira for six years, and just as he is about to complete his masterpiece (in four weeks corrected galleys are due at the publisher), he is informed that one of the key figures in his biography, Jacob Grossman, has turned up in New York City after having vanished twenty-six years earlier. Fending off pressures from his agent and editor, who do not want to delay the appearance of the book, Greer leaves his home in London to interview Grossman, even though the biographer has bankrupted himself during his arduous travels to obtain material for his book and alienated the affections of his wife, who leaves him saying “you do not know when to stop.”
Then Grossman is murdered and Greer, the last one to see him alive, becomes both a suspect and a material witness. The biographer withholds information from the police, and then trades it for a look at Grossman’s autopsy report. Greer burglarizes one of his interviewee’s homes and nearly loses his life attempting to unravel the sinister threads of his subject’s life.
No novelist before Joseph Geary has shown quite such tenacity in revealing how fanatical biographers can become about their research or how they can become implicated in the virtues and vices of their subjects’ worlds.
Spiral also provides a riveting view of the New York art world as well as the ambiance of London and the nature of contemporary publishing.