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Drawing of a squirrel in a dress suit and tie with text "How to Dress a Squirrel" written above the photo.
(Illustration by William Nealy from “This Isn’t Going to End Well: The True Story of a Man Thought I Knew.”)

Bookmark This is a feature that highlights new books by College of Arts and Sciences faculty and alumni, published the first week of each month. This month’s featured book is This Isn’t Going to End Well: The True Story of a Man I Thought I Knew (Algonquin Books, an imprint of Workman Publishing, Hachette Book Group) by Daniel Wallace (with illustrations from the late William Nealy).

The words Bookmark This appear in blue with a little blue book in the lower left corner.Content warning: The following contains information about a suicide that is the focus of the book.

Black and white photo of the author
Daniel Wallace

Q: Can you give us a brief synopsis of your book?

A: A mysterious suicide and an unsolved murder leads me to explore the secret self of a man I thought I knew — my brother-in-law and mentor, William Nealy. It’s a biography, an elegy, a love letter and a detective story, all in less than 300 pages.

Q: How does this fit in with your research interests and passions?

A: Most of my novels are about people pretending to be something or someone they aren’t, the father in my first book, Big Fish, for instance. He tells tall tales to withhold from his son (and everyone else) who he really is. In This Isn’t Going to End Well I write about the man who unwittingly nurtured that unconscious obsession.

Q: What was the original idea that made you think: “There’s a book here?”

A: In 2001, William took his own life. It was a life-altering shock for those of us who had loved him. Ten years later I found his private journals in the back of a dark closet. Reading them, I realized this is a story that should be told.

Q: What surprised you when researching/writing this book?

Illustration of a plate of breakfast food and coffee. A sausage link is underneath the plate and an arrow points to the words "The Missing Link."
(Illustration by William Nealy)

A: The most surprising aspect of researching this book was reading William’s journals. His inner life, the way he saw the world and his place in it, was at such odds from the man we knew. It’s a truism that we can never wholly know another person, but in William’s case not being known was essential to who he was. He was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, 24/7.

Q: Where’s your go-to writing spot, and how do you deal with writer’s block?

Book cover for "This Isn't Going to End Well" features a pair of dark sunglasses on the cover.A: I don’t have writer’s block; there are just times I want to write and other times that I don’t. Assignments with deadlines are inspirational, though. I work on a laptop and a desktop computer. The desktop is in my office, and the laptop turns every other room of the house into my office. I used to write on a schedule but for the last few years I’ve loosened up quite a bit. I don’t want to write too quickly. I think I’m running out of words.

Daniel Wallace is the J. Ross MacDonald Distinguished Professor of English and Creative Writing. He is the award-winning author of six novels, including Extraordinary Adventures, and Big Fish, his first, which was adapted into a movie and Broadway musical. This Isn’t Going to End Well is his first venture into nonfiction. He is also an illustrator whose drawings have appeared in books, newspapers and magazines all over the world. Listen to an NPR interview with Wallace about the book and read reviews in The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Wallace has upcoming local book readings including Tuesday, May 9 at the Purple Crow in Hillsborough; Wednesday, May 10 at The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines; Saturday, May 20 at the Greensboro Bound Literary Festival (with Lee Smith); and Thursday, June 1 at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill.

Nominate a book we should feature by emailing Find previous “Bookmark This” features by searching the term on our website, and add some books to your reading list by checking out our spring College magazine books page.





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