As I quickly got sucked into this tale of woe, I had to stop myself several times and mentally think back and unscramble some of the references made and connect them to their real-life events. From Sam Zell to dead hikers in Oregon, my brain worked overtime to nail-down the news cycle of which this emanated. It's hard, to impossible, to not find yourself doing this as author Richard Hine does this throughout the book; not because it's cute, or an implement of his style, but because this is the business that he's writing about. Newspapers, newspaper men, journalism, corporate confinement, well-structured bureaucratic greed and career-breaking gamesmanship that has `desperation' written all over the faces of all the players, but one. Russell Wiley does his best throughout to hold a poker-face from power lunches where he gives nothing away to office interruptions where he coddles a few employees instead of saying: `You're Fired'. It's a tightrope for sure.
Russell Wiley is the quiet and calculated monitor caught up in a soul-crushing existence and his story has the ring of a Kitty Kelly tell-all biography, but this one covers the newsroom and not just a person. The sad truth of Russell Wiley though, is that he does exist -- and is the current profile of so many thirty / fourty something's caught too far gone in a business that's about to slip over a perimeter and disappear for good, taking all hands with them. The real-life edge and details make a person think about the message as much as the story.
Hine is definitely not the first person to tell us that the publishing world `has heard the chimes at midnight', but has done so in a very captivating but derisive manner. I couldn't help but catch glimpses of Bret Easton Ellis's `American Psycho' as I read this, but this is the book Mr. Ellis would've written if he was still serious about writing and not just dumping his trash on us.
Russell Wiley is the aged yuppie that has settled down and found his back against the wall and surrounded by hungry up-starts and buffoons rather than the sharks of yesteryear. He has become the larger, slow moving ageing shark in a tank full of docile and self-obsessed lesser life forms.
The action and pace of this book is the atmosphere, the reality and the true to life commentary like many other great novels of this type. This is not a whodunit, or a crime-scene investigation, so don't expect that.
Having recently re-read Atlas Shrugged, I couldn't help but see parallels with the story as Russell Wiley travels some of the same ground as the beloved Dagny Taggart. This is the search for self as well as a safe way out the door.
I look forward to a follow-up novel from Mr. Hine - and I don't say that about many writers these days.