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In the Rooms [NOOK Book]


Part Nick Hornby, part Jay McInerney, with a dash of vermouth, In the Rooms is a warm, sharply observed comedy about sex, lies, drinking, and second chances

London literary agent Patrick Miller comes to New York dreaming of joining the big league, only to find himself selling celebrity dog books. But when he spots legendary novelist Douglas Kelsey on the street and follows him into an AA meeting, a world of opportunity beckons. Who knew that sobriety offered such networking ...

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In the Rooms

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Part Nick Hornby, part Jay McInerney, with a dash of vermouth, In the Rooms is a warm, sharply observed comedy about sex, lies, drinking, and second chances

London literary agent Patrick Miller comes to New York dreaming of joining the big league, only to find himself selling celebrity dog books. But when he spots legendary novelist Douglas Kelsey on the street and follows him into an AA meeting, a world of opportunity beckons. Who knew that sobriety offered such networking possibilities? Or that the women would be so attractive? Soon he’s a regular attendee at AA meetings, but there’s only one problem—he’s not an alcoholic.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A flailing London literary agent relocates to New York and delves into the wilds of business and unlikely recovery in Shone's wry debut novel (after the pop film history Blockbuster). With his romantic life shelved and his work increasingly shaky, Patrick Miller has a chance close encounter with his faded literary hero, Douglas Kelsey, and impulsively follows him into what turns out to be an AA meeting. Patrick protests he doesn't belong at these meetings, more pointedly when he's greeted with unfamiliar generosity of spirit by a lively assortment of recovering alcoholics, but he keeps showing up in an effort to secure the rights to Douglas's long-delayed novel. Patrick's bafflement at recovery jargon is laced with rueful observations ("You were alcoholic just by virtue of being British, of course"), and as Patrick's quest for a literary coup deepens into friendship with the brusque but funny novelist, so does his relationship with Lola, a slightly too wise, slightly too perfect young woman. Shone's comic tone keeps a happier than expected ending free of mawkishness and offers some guarded optimism and self-acceptance, notions that work their way into Patrick's character with a hard-earned grace. (Apr.)
Library Journal
In a sharp, funny, and ultimately touching debut novel from a British film critic and journalist, Patrick Miller, a literary agent transplanted from London to New York, sees the opportunity of a lifetime when he spots his novelist hero, the reclusive Douglas Kelsey, on the street. He follows Kelsey into what turns out to be an AA meeting. Despite not being an alcoholic himself, Miller begins attending meetings to befriend Kelsey, with the hope of getting him to publish again, with Miller as his agent. Shone's depiction of AA meetings and their attendees is darkly humorous. His gradual revelations about Miller's real character are what keep the book humming along until a surprising and satisfying ending. Along the way, Shone also introduces us to Felix the eccentric and Lola the love interest, both strong supporting characters. VERDICT Recommended for readers of Nick Hornby and Joshua Ferris.—Amy Watts, Univ. of Georgia Lib., Athens
Kirkus Reviews

A quick-witted literary agent sees a world of opportunity when he spots a long-lost legendary author at an Alcoholics Anonymousmeeting.

Best known for his long tenure with theSunday Times, British film critic Shone (Blockbuster: How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Summer, 2004) brings together breakneck comic dialogue and a British comic's irreverent attitude toward America's sacred cows in his debut novel. A comedy that is tangentially about alcoholism, the book has that hazy, thick-minded sensation of a hangover. Shone's mirror on New York City is Patrick Miller, a British refugee from the London publishing scene who has fled to the new world after a horrendously bad breakup. This is a bloke so damaged he flees his own countrymen. "Even the Samoans had their flag-waving day, the Puerto Ricans their march," Miller bemoans. "You never heard a peep out of the British. All we got was the chance to look vaguely apologetic on July 4. We were the guys everyone had come here to get awayfrom. Our mere presence canceled out the point of the place."Miller plots a Hornby-esque second chance when he spots Douglas Kelsey, a legendary two-fisted novelist whose seminal novel made him a man of American letters before he flamed out over a war of words with his publisher. Naturally, Patrick can't just slide up to Kelsey, though. He has to stalk him all the way into an AA meeting, where he feigns being a drunk in order to cozy up to his next paycheck. The dichotomy between the two—Patrick the anxious neophyte who's way out of his league and Kelsey the grizzled eccentric—is endearing, more so than the clumsy romance that Shone throws in for balance. And there's a little truth beneath its glossy sheen, too. "It's not alcoholism that creates great novels," Kelsey explains. "And it's not sobriety. It'sdenial."

An overly enthusiastic fish-out-of-water comedy that peppers glibness with insight.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429960526
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 4/12/2011
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 1,218,202
  • File size: 499 KB

Meet the Author

Tom Shone

TOM SHONE is a former film critic for the Sunday Times. He has written for Talk magazine, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and the London Telegraph. He lives in New York City.

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Read an Excerpt

chapter one

IT WAS A COLD, clear morning, the sun low in the sky, casting long shadows that stretched the length of the sidewalk. My breath formed little clouds of vapor in front of my face that evaporated instantly. I tightened my coat, tucked in my scarf, and fell into step behind a man in a Burberry raincoat, a copy of the Wall Street Journal under his arm. Always a safe bet—a man in a Burberry raincoat, carrying a copy of the Wall Street Journal under his arm. After nine months in the city, I’d learned to steer clear of anyone with a dog on a leash, a camera around his neck, a baby in a pram, a map in his hand, or a family in tow, all highly likely to commit any one of a number of traffic violations—pulling out in front of you, dawdling, changing lanes without warning, or else just stopping dead on the street. No signal. Just stopping dead, right there in front of you, to gawp, or point, or chitchat, or just hang out, like it was his living room. Nobody stopped on the streets of New York. The only reason for you to stop was if you had reached your destination; that was the only real reason, the only valid excuse. Otherwise, you kept going. That was the genius of the grid system: There was always some direction you could be moving in—left, right, up, down, north, south, east, west. The only people who seemed to understand this properly, funnily enough, were the elderly. The elderly in New York were nothing like the elderly in London, inching along the pavement in their multiple layers of wool and nylon. The elderly in New York were wiry, feral creatures, their haunches sprung like marathon runners, their instincts for a gap in the crowd, for some fleeting point of ingress, honed by decades of pounding the streets. In my first week in the city, I had been expertly cut up by this silver-haired old dear in lime green Lycra jogging shorts and sneakers who zoomed just past the end of my nose, missing me by a whisker. I could only gaze in admiration as she disappeared into the midday crowds, elbows pumping. Get behind one of those, I figured, and it would be like tailing a fire truck or a police car as it hurtled up one of the avenues. They didn’t even look old. They looked young. Only older.
At the end of my street, a heavy refuse truck hissed and moaned, hungry for the black bags tossed into the back by the garbagemen; passersby glanced in, doubtless imagining what it would do to their frail bones, and hurried on. I came to a halt on the corner of Seventh, which was flocked with taxis, beside one of those orange cones belching steam from the subway system. I caught a faceful of cabbagy-smelling steam—what were they doing down there?—and felt my stomach roil. The exact dimensions of my hangover, long suspected but so far not precisely demarcated, revealed themselves to me. This was not going to be one of my more productive days.
I was just considering heading north to cross a little higher up, when my phone rang. Fishing it out of my pocket, I saw Caitlin’s name flash up in blue on the little LED screen. Fuck. What did she want? For a few seconds, I toyed with the idea of not taking the call, then duty, or guilt, or some mixture of the two, kicked in. I flipped open the phone and held it to my ear.
“Caitlin. Hi.”
There was a pause before she spoke, and she sounded sheepish when she did. “Patrick … hi.… I’m sorry to call. I just wanted you to know that I shouldn’t have sent that e-mail. What you get up to now is your own business. I’m sorry.”
The e-mail, terse with sarcasm, had been the first thing in my in-tray that morning. “Liked your profile on Glad to see you’re feeling a little more ‘chipper’ these days—Caitlin.” I had groaned when I read it. An actual groan escaped my lips. They really ought to put a warning on those things; I thought: THE FIRST PERSON TO READ THIS WILL BE YOUR EX-GIRLFRIEND.Then see how many people called themselves “adventurous” yet “earthy,” “spontaneous” yet “considerate,” “outgoing” yet “shy” or said that they liked to “laugh a lot,” mostly at themselves. If you believed all that you read on the dating Web sites, New York was populated entirely with zany yet grounded twentysomethings engaged in citywide hunts for the best cupcake shop, while laughing at themselves, madly. It was all lies. Most people I knew were too busy working like dogs to embark on spontaneous road trips in custom-painted ice-cream trucks, or to cook blue spaghetti for their art-school friends, or any other of the madcap activities that made up the three-ring circus that was supposed to be your life. I like to live each day as if it were my last. How was that any way to live? If I was to live every day as if it were my last, I’d spend the rest of my life drunk, six cigarettes stuffed in my mouth, sobbing down the phone at relatives I hadn’t called in ages in a funk of fear and loathing. How was that a good way to spend the entirety of the rest of your life? My Wednesdays were bad enough as it was.
“It’s okay,” I said. “You had every right. It must have been a shock seeing me on that thing. It’s not what you think. I’m not using it to go on any dates. It’s just … window-shopping.”
It didn’t sound so good when she said it.
“Yes. You know. Fantasy. Pretend. You think I’m ready for someone else? Are you kidding me? Of course I’m not. I just wanted to know what it might be like to feel okay again. Reassurance that I wouldn’t feel like this forever.”
“Reassurance that you wouldn’t feel like this forever.”
“Yes,” I said, wondering why she was repeating everything I was saying. That couldn’t be good.
“I see,” she said icily. “So you’re not feeling so ‘chipper’ anymore, then?”
Ouch. Okay. That was embarrassing. Word That Best Describes Your Current State of Mind. I’d been trying to strike a note of Cockney insouciance. Cheeky-chappy kind of thing. Allow them to infer how dumb I thought the question, while also hinting at the unusual word choices you got with dating a Brit in New York. Across the street, the light changed, and my little pack of pedestrians surged forward. I racked up a decent pace in the hopes the conversation would follow suit.
“Okay, look, this isn’t fair, Caitlin. I was just trying to move on. It’s been three months now.”
“It’s been one and a half.”
“It’s been exactly six weeks.”
“I thought it was three.”
Turning onto Eleventh Street, I found myself engulfed by a swarm of schoolchildren, all holding hands, jabbering away in what sounded like three different languages. I took immediate evasive action, but it was too late, and I found myself slowing to a virtual standstill. Nobody had told me there would be children in New York. I decided the time had come for an experimental note of anger to see where it got me.
“Okay, look, this is ridiculous. You’re sounding like it wasn’t you who ended the whole thing. You threw me out.”
“I don’t want to go over that whole thing again. That is not true. I didn’t throw you out.”
“You more or less did.”
“Can you even tell the truth, Patrick? What happens when you try? Does it hurt your mouth? You’re incredible, absolutely incredible. Do you want to know what the worst thing was? It was the fact that you put yoga under ‘hobbies and interests.’ After all the times I asked you to go. I mean, if the question had been ‘Things my last girlfriend asked me to do but I always refused,’ that would have been an honest answer. As a profile of me, that would have been an honest answer—”
“I’m interested! That makes it an interest!”
“—and baking! Okay, here’s a tip. If you’re going to put baking as a hobby, then when they ask you about the items you have in your fridge, don’t put ‘a bottle of champagne’ and ‘a chocolate bar.’ You can’t bake with champagne and chocolate.”
I thought hard for a recipe that used champagne and chocolate and came up short. Something was bothering me about this conversation, something nagging at its periphery that I couldn’t put my finger on. On my left, two schoolgirls had lost hold of each other’s hands. I saw my chance and pushed through them.
“You have no idea what I’m up to these days—”
“Well, I’m pretty certain it doesn’t involve baking and yoga! Good Lord! The only reason I knew it was you was because you put Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth as your favorite book. You may want to do something about that. That’s not the sort of thing that’ll have ’em queuing up at your door in this city. Biographies of dead Nazi architects.”
“He was the one Nazi who was man enough to stand up at Nuremberg and—” I began, when suddenly it came to me. But of course! How could I have been so stupid! It had been staring me in the face all along! “Hang on … How come you were reading my profile?”
There was silence on the other end of the phone.
“What were you even doing on” I asked.
An even longer silence, in which I could sense the swell of victory.
“A friend of mine is a member,” she said finally.
“Ah. A friend,” I said jubilantly, feeling the power of my newfound victimhood surging up beneath me like a submarine beneath the feet of a drowning man. “Of course. Right. How silly of me. Afriend.
“You can believe what you want, Patrick. I gave up trying to convince you of anything a long time ago. That’s not why I was calling anyway.”
“Oh no?” I asked, feeling the submarine drop back beneath the waves. “Why were you calling?”
“Kira and Mark said you’d asked them out to dinner, and I was wondering if—well, I just think it would be easier if we had a clean break.”
“Meaning what exactly? That I shouldn’t call them ever?”
“I just don’t feel okay about it.”
I slowed to a halt outside of a pizza parlor on the corner of Sixth Avenue, causing the woman behind me to mutter audibly. I glared at her hunched, miserable back as she passed: Couldn’t she see I was having a conversation? “But what will they think if I just disappear off the map like that? Without saying a word? Don’t you think they’ll think it’s a little bit rude?”
“Please, Patrick. Just do this one thing for me.”
“But they’re the only people I really know in this…” I began before trailing off, the memory of what I had written in the Why You Should Get to Know Me section winking at me like the light of an unexploded bomb.
“Okay, okay,” I said grumpily. “Whatever you say. I won’t call them.”
“Thanks. I know this is hard. It’s hard for me, too.”
“I know. Listen, I’d better go; I’m right outside my office.”
Inside World-Famous Original Ray’s Pizza, two Hispanic teenagers ladled red gloop into big doughy pizza bases.
“Okay, well … take care, Patrick.”
Her tone was neutered, inscrutable.
“You, too.”
I closed the phone and slipped it into my pocket, going back over the conversation I had just had, probing for weak points in her argument and patching up places where mine could have been stronger. She had dumped me. Maybe she hadn’t thrown me out of her apartment, but she had dumped me. And it had been three months ago, unless you counted the night we fell off the wagon that time. You couldn’t count that. And I had given some serious thought to a yoga class. The baking, not so much, but nobody told the truth on that thing. It was aspirational: You described the person you wantedto be. It was the American Dream—your chance to reinvent yourself. The only time anybody told the truth was in the What I Am Looking For section, which was basically the place your last relationship went to die. It echoed with the sound of niggles and peeves. “No workaholics, passive-aggressive, brainwashed Stepford men or Republicans,” wrote one girl, Nolita657. “No cynics or assholes, and you know who you are.…” It reminded me of that Carly Simon song, the one where she went, “You’re so vain, I’ll bet you think this song is about you.” Okay. First thing. Why would a vain man think that song was about him? Surely he’d pick a far more flattering song, “Holding out for a Hero,” say, or “Dream Lover,” or, if it absolutely had to be a Carly Simon song, “Nobody Does it Better.” I’d always liked that one. But the one song in the songbook accusing him of vanity? I’d almost written to Nolita657 to point all this out, but something had stopped me—a sudden weariness at the thought of slotting into place behind the last guy, even, now that I thought about it, a spooky semblance of Caitlin to the girl’s tone. Jesus. Maybe it really had been Caitlin. Thank Christ we hadn’t gone on a date. I felt a sudden chill, shivered, retied my scarf, and pushed off north toward the office.

Copyright © 2009, 2011 by Tom Shone
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 30, 2011

    Loved this!

    What a wonderful read! Smart, funny, wise, and set in New York City....everything I could ever want from a comic novel. Plus, great characters and totally original story. I couldn't stop reading and finished in a weekend!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2011

    Great read for twelve steppers

    If you have been in recovery a while, you will get this. Very funny, Englsh guy in NYC , is it a geographical? Twists and turns before bottoming. Complete with drunk authors, gorgeous understanding women and others that make up the fellowship. Very funny!

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  • Posted March 31, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    This is an amusing tale

    Following a nasty end to a relationship and his work tanking, publisher Patrick Miller flees London for New York. Patrick moans the fate of British expatriates around the world as he toasts London until he spots the literary legend Douglas Kelsey. The man's first novel made him the top American writer of his generation, but leading with his chin Kelsey got into a battle with his publisher and seemingly vanished.

    Knowing how easily Kelsey rages, Miller needs a ploy to meet the man. He stalks Kelsey until he finds the opportunity when the writer enters an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Miller follows him pretending to be an alcoholic so that he can make first contact and hopefully renew his publishing career.

    This is an amusing tale that is at its best when it focuses on the changing relationship between the two "alcoholics" as the British expatriate is on a mission to publish the American author's next book. The story line is rapid fire stand up comic humor that gels nicely when the lead couple takes center stage. The plot loses some of its lampooning of Anglo-America when the tale turns to the changing relationship between Patrick and Lola as that feels more of a requirement though in fairness well written and funny. Fans will relish the jocular British invasion as Patrick sadly muses that he is a victim of the "Sun never sets on the British Empire".

    Harriet Klausner

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    Posted May 30, 2011

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    Posted September 21, 2011

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    Posted July 27, 2011

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    Posted April 13, 2011

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