Former Gazette Chicago reporter Christine Mangan writes bestselling debut novel
May 4, 2018

Photo courtesy Ecco Press/HarperCollins
BESTSELLING AUTHOR—Former Gazette Chicago reporter Christine Mangan autographs copies of her new mystery novel, Tangerine. See page 20.

By William S. Bike

The mystery thriller novel Tangerine, published by HarperCollins earlier this year, has taken the literary world by storm.

The New Yorker called it “A juicy melodrama…endearing and even impressive in the force of its determination…” Esquire wrote that Tangerine is “the thriller that everyone will be talking about…One of those sinuous, Hitchcockian tales that disorients in the best way…Hypnotic.” George Clooney’s production company already has acquired the movie rights, and Scarlett Johansson is expected to star.

And it was written by a former Gazette Chicago reporter, Christine Mangan.

Christine Mangan.

“I wrote for Gazette Chicago from 2005 to 2007,” Mangan recalled. “My first article for Gazette Chicago was the first time I ever saw my name in print. I had done a few online freelance jobs prior to that, but it was the first real clip that I acquired.”

Mangan “wrote a number of different types of stories for Gazette Chicago, mostly covering local news. They were unique in that they were probably the most news-oriented pieces that I wrote during my brief stint as a freelance writer.”

Gazette Chicago was not Mangan’s only connection to the community. The Bloomfield HIlls, MI, native earned her bachelor’s degree at Columbia College Chicago in the South Loop, and was a resident of that community as well. Subsequently, while studying for her MFA in fiction writing in the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast program, she remained in this community.

“It was a low residency program, so most of the time it involved sending packets of work through the mail to a mentor,” Mangan explained. “I only had to be on campus twice a year for a week of workshops and seminars.”

While working for Gazette Chicago, Mangan also did an internship in the Office of Advancement at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry.

“Working at UIC greatly contributed to my success as a writer as it not only provided me with an opportunity to practice my writing skills, but also with a physical space in which to sit and work on my creative writing,” she said.

A career-defining task for Mangan was writing obituaries for the UIC College of Dentistry’s alumni magazine, Vision.

“I thought they were absolutely terrifying at first because they involved calling the surviving spouse and asking questions about their recently departed loved one,” Mangan explained. “It was an experience that has remained with me throughout the years, particularly as, in the end, it greatly influenced a portion of my MFA thesis.

“In addition to the creative output, we were also required to do an academic paper, which I chose to focus on the use of oral histories in literature,” she continued. “As part of the process, I had to extensively research techniques used in the collection of oral histories, culminating in the recording of my own grandparents’ lives for the project. The interviews that I completed while at UIC, and in particular, for those obituaries, gave me the beginning tools to complete this task, as well as the idea of doing so in the first place.”

Mangan left Gazette Chicago and UIC to earn her PhD in English from University College in Dublin, Ireland, where she studied Gothic literature. Living in Ireland gave her the opportunity to travel in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, including Tangier, Morocco, where she would set her novel.

“I had spent some time in Tangier following the completion of my PhD, and my impressions of the city were so strong that, by the time I came back to the States, I found myself still thinking about it. I had also just finished up with four years of reading and writing Gothic literature, so there were certainly elements there that I drew from while creating the story and characters that eventually became Tangerine.”

Photo courtesy Ecco Press/HarperCollins
Former Gazette Chicago reporter Christine Mangan’s book, Tangerine.

Mangan submitted her manuscript unsolicited to the Book Group, a literary agency in New York City. Unsolicited manuscripts generally get stacked up in what is called the “slush pile.” Unlike most editors, Elisabeth Weed, a partner in the Book Group, checks her company’s slush pile frequently and found Mangan’s inquiry.

Weed liked Mangan’s pitch letter and first ten pages and began working with the former Gazette Chicago reporter on the complete manuscript, which Ecco, a subsidiary of HarperCollins, eventually purchased.

Set in Tangier, Morocco, in 1956, Tangerine (a slang expression for a resident of the city) tells the story of Englishwoman Alice Shipley, who is living there with her husband, John. Her college roommate, American Lucy Mason, shows up unexpectedly, after the two once inseparable friends hadn’t spoken in more than a year because of an incident at college.

At first the fearless and independent Lucy helps the shy Alice become more outgoing and confident, but then Alice, as in their college days, starts to feel controlled and stifled by Lucy. Eventually John disappears, the Alice-Lucy relationship becomes more complex and sinister, and their story becomes both a mystery and a psychological thriller.

Tangerine is or soon will be available in around 20 countries in almost as many languages.

Mangan uses a unique construction for the book, as chapters alternate between Alice’s and Lucy’s viewpoints yet move the story along in a linear fashion without covering the same ground.

After teaching in Dubai for a while, Mangan has moved back to the U.S. and is living in Brooklyn, NY. She is working on her second novel.