In many ways, patrickdewitt.net looks like a legitimate author's website.
The page displays the acclaimed Portland novelist's name in big, dramatic letters. The background is splashed with a moody mix of black and red, and it advertises a novel called In God's Silence, Them Devils Sang.
One problem: Patrick deWitt has published four novels. That's not one of them.
When you inspect a little closer, one detail jumps out—small, almost hidden in the red background, a button reading, "This isn't him."
The site is actually maintained by a digital squatter, who says they are willing to return the domain to its rightful owner, under one condition: DeWitt must read the squatter's unpublished novel.
"Patrick deWitt is an award-winning author who has written 4 best-selling novels," the website states. "This is not his site. I have not written any award-winning books. Over the past five years, I have written one very unpublished novel, which the world has met largely with indifference."
The process of transforming a manuscript into a published book is laborious, often filled with months of silence and rejection from agents and publishers.
It's for this reason that the squatter—who spoke to WW on condition of anonymity—decided to take this unique stab at getting noticed. The idea first came to them before the movie adaptation of deWitt's most famous book, The Sisters Brothers, hit theaters.
"I was full of scotch and sitting on my manuscript and trying to think about how I could reach out to publishers and agents," the squatter wrote over email. "While I was writing In God's Silence Them Devils Sang, my pal recommended The Sisters Brothers. I figured that his agent and publisher might be interested in work that played in a similar world, and then I saw they both linked to this dead website. So I thought, if this super successful writer isn't using it, then maybe some of his good fortune could rub off on me."
The first chapter of In God's Silence is posted at patrickdewitt.net. It's described by the author as "an acid western, half-Cormack McCarthy, half-Hunter S. Thompson."
The squatter took over the site 18 months ago. The hope was that the stunt might garner some attention, or at least get him a read from a well-regarded author.
"I kinda thought I could blackmail his publishers into reading it," the squatter writes. "Turns out I was wrong. No one gave a fuck. No one's really emailed that website, except the odd confused person trying to tell him off for his characters being cruel to animals or some similar gibberish. I don't think [deWitt] even uses the internet."
Representatives for deWitt did not respond to requests for comment.