On Thursday, the Twitter feed of @BookaliciousPam was full of the normal posts: plans to attend an upcoming writers' conference, which galley service she preferred, enthusiasm for good books. Then she wrote that she had just been the victim of attempted carjacking.
But it wasn't a carjacking; it was an attack by an author whose work she had rejected.
Pam van Hylckama Vlieg began working as a literary agent for San Francisco's Larsen Pomada Literary Agency this summer. For years she's been blogging about romance as Bookalicious and running a separate kids' literature blog. She's one of those people who has been comfortable living online, using Twitter, Facebook, and the check-in app Foursquare. And that may have been the problem.
This is how the story goes: Vlieg was in her car and an apparent stranger knocked off her side mirror. Then he reached into the car and pushed her forcefully into the steering wheel. One of the two dogs that was with her, a Jack Russell terrier, bit the attacker's arm and he took off. (The bulldog licked him).
At the urging of a loved one, Vlieg called the local police. They thought the attack might not have been random; at some point, she gave them access to her email. She had received a hateful reply to one of her rejections, but had not thought much of it. It was, she tweeted, "[t]he normal I hate you and I want you to die and I'll kill you."
Agents get that kind of thing all the time, she tried to explain. The police thought differently. They went to the address of the rejected author's query letter. There, they found the alleged assailant, complete with the marks of a dog bite on his arm. He had prior offenses.
Vlieg shared her story in part because it played out in real time. She tweeted about the attempted carjacking, about talking to the police, and even included a funny picture of her child -- who she'd been going to pick up from school -- waiting in the back of the police car as she answered their questions. That all happened before she had begun to realize that living so openly online may have allowed her attacker to track her down.
She's since removed the photograph of her daughter; she tweeted that her husband had her Facebook on lockdown; and she has not returned to Twitter on Friday morning. She did not return our request for comment -- although, if she's decided to unplug, she may not have even seen it.