Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The title refers to the New York Times bestseller list, which 40-ish Seattle lawyer and literary novelist Abby Chandlis hopes to climb with her own to-die-for commercial novel. Abby's experience with three previous novels that "died on the shelves," however, has made her distrust publishers. She believes that her new book will get the recognition and money it deserves only if it's associated with a devastatingly handsome male face. So she's marketing it under the pseudonym of "Gable Cooper" and winds up striking a deal with Jack Jermaine, the shadowy elder son of a South Carolina military family, to pose as the hunky writer. Abby quickly finds that this kind of barely legal deceit has nasty side effects. Her home is trashed and her best friend, Theresa, is electrocuted by a rigged fuse box. Theresa's ex, a violent drunk, turns up underwater, while Abby's own ex, a weasely lawyer, comes sniffing, lured by the scent of Abby's money. Jermaine's handsome, "dangerous" looks and demeanor, meanwhile, drive up the price of the book and its sequel into the mid-six figures. In the heat of success, Abby and Jack's business arrangement turns to romance, but there are facts Abby doesn't know about her new partnership that could get her killed. Martini (The Judge) clearly had a good time writing this fanciful book, in which he manages to incorporate multiple settings, invent gossamer disguises for important publishing personalities and skewer the machinery that produces blockbuster books. The fiery finish and final revelations put Martini's new novel squarely in the commercial territory tracked by "the list"-never mind the ironies of the book being a likely blockbuster in its own right. 400,000 first printing; $350,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild, Doubleday Book Club and Mystery Guild main selections. (Feb.)
Attorney-turned-novelist Martini (Undue Influence, LJ 6/15/94) writes about attorney-turned-novelist Abby Chandlis, who stretches the practice of ghost-writing to an extreme and perilous level. Fearful that glamour instead of grammar sells books in today's shallow publishing industry, Chandlis creates Gable Cooper, a strong, handsome, but definitely fictitious alter ego who as "author" of her new novel should assure its success. Possessed of these qualities, rugged Jack Jermaine seems ideal for the role. However, his spooky past and dangerous tendencies soon cause Abby to regret the entire scheme. This is a competent thriller, but many readers may find difficulty sympathizing with protagonist Chandlis. Recommended only for comprehensive suspense collections.-John Noel, Tennessee Tech Univ. Lib., Lebanon
So you thought it was all fun and games having a breakout novel? Come listen to Martini, on leave from his series about defense attorney Paul Madriani (The Judge, 1996, etc.), spin this wild and wooly tale of a pseudonym caper from hell.
Life hasn't been kind to Abby Chandlis. She's going nowhere in her Seattle law firm; her second career as a novelist is stalled; her shiftless ex is behind in his payments, leaving her dining on cat food. But Abby has an ace in the hole: a new novel that could hit the bestseller list with the force of a pile- driver. Could hit, if only Abby weren't so unglamorous (she's pushing 40), so shopworn (those old novels turn out to be worse than no help), so unpromotable. So Abby and her roommate Theresa decide to find a front, some male model who'll masquerade as "Gable Cooper" for a percentage of a take that stretches higher than Jack's beanstalk. And even though the front that Abby ends up with, soldier-of-fortune/failed novelist Jack Jermaine, isn't exactly what she was looking for, the two storm through a brightly malicious pipe dream of literary celebrity, as Abby sticks like glue to her supposed client's side while big-ticket agents, publishers, and producers fight over them like so many jackals. But even before take-charge Jermaine spirits his dazzled ghostwriter off to the Caribbean for some sun and sex, clouds have gathered on the horizon. Theresa has died in a suspicious accident that seems meant for Abby; Theresa's low-life husband Joey follows apace; the Seattle police are looking for Abby; so is a scandal-sheet reporter; and finally Abby wonders whether her own legal claim to her chart-busting novel might be a lot more slender than she thoughtand might be based a little too exclusively on the testimony of her late friend.
Absolutely irresistible balderdashThe Pelican Brief for everybody who isn't John Grisham.