His first book, “"The Right Hand of Sleep," published by Knopf in 2001, got the kind of reviews most first novelists only dream of. Publishers Weekly called it "assured and astonishingly mature," praising Wray's "psychological acuity" and "unfailing historical empathy."”
For his next book, he wrote what he called “the weirdest, most excessive book I can” … “"Canaan's Tongue." The novel takes off from the true story of a charismatic, Civil War-era revivalist who worked a horrific scam on slaves along the Mississippi River, persuading them to run away, then betraying and reselling them. …Wray spent his promotional budget building a raft on which he floated down the Mississippi, stopping for readings and generally hoping to attract attention.
"It is not enough to write a good book and get reviewed well," he told the New York Times reporter he persuaded to join him for part of the trip. "I want to write fiction the rest of my life, and to do that you have to sell books."
But the story goes on to say: “"Canaan's Tongue" didn't just fail to sell, Wray says, "it dropped like a bowling ball in a bayou. Whssssh. And the pond scum just kind of closed over it."”But we're still talking John Wray, not John Grisham. For one thing, it's hard to imagine the latter writing a first draft on the subway, as Wray did (too many distractions in his apartment). And it's equally hard to envision Grisham on the L train with a bullhorn, boldly reading -- for the benefit of bemused commuters and YouTube viewers -- the opening passages of the book he hopes will break down the barriers between his literary creations and a paying audience.”
I kind of like his zeal.