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The Artist of the Missing was the first novel I published (although not the first one I wrote). The first draft was written in twenty-one days, from 25 December 1994 to 15 January 1995. I spent the next two years revising it. The manuscript was rejected by thirty-four publishers, which my then-agent, Jennifer Hengen at Sterling Lord Literistic, said was her personal record. My favorite rejection letter called the novel “dark and elliptical.”

When I was in the business of summarizing The Artist of the Missing to strangers, in the months before and after it came out, I gave a different account of it nearly every time. If all the people who asked me, “So, what's your book about?” had got together in a room and compared notes, they would not have believed that all these descriptions were of the same book. Although probably all of the descriptions, collated, would have summed it up pretty well.

The Artist of the Missing is about a city where people disappear, a man who paints their portraits, some police officers, a forensic photographer and a very lifelike doll. Dark and elliptical, it won a California Book Award for the best first novel of 1999.

Image: Stephen Alcorn.
© 2012 Paul Poissel
  • “Visually powerful and heavily atmospheric [...] The Artist of the Missing reminds us of the stark reality that, increasingly, we all know someone missing, all know rooms full of meaningless objects purchased or found.”
    — Paul Hoover, San Francisco Chronicle

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