The Up and Comer

The Up and Comer

4.6 19
by Howard Roughan

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Poised to become his Manhattan law firm's youngest partner, up-and-coming attorney Philip Randall takes risks and a mistress--his best friend's wife. Then the game changes and the stakes get higher. Someone begins following Philip's every move, waiting for the chance to strike--with a vengeance. Soon, Philip is at the center of a murder investigation that can end his…  See more details below


Poised to become his Manhattan law firm's youngest partner, up-and-coming attorney Philip Randall takes risks and a mistress--his best friend's wife. Then the game changes and the stakes get higher. Someone begins following Philip's every move, waiting for the chance to strike--with a vengeance. Soon, Philip is at the center of a murder investigation that can end his career, his marriage, and his fabulous life.

Editorial Reviews

Bret Easton Ellis
Beyond the sheer speed and undiluted excitement...lie a cruel comedy of manners about overprivileged, spoiled New Yorkers...sleek entertainment...
Jerry Stahl
With pitch-perfect ear and dialogue...Roughan has written a funny, smart, and start-to-finish riveting chronicle of life...among...upwardly mobile, urban young Americans...
Douglas Kennedy
Howard Roughan is a natural. He tells a story with deceptive ease, making you compulsively turn pages...a winner...a terrific debut.
Robert Ferrigno
...a screamer. Fast, fun and dead-on compelling. A great ride of a book.
John Lescroart
...touches all the bases-great beginning, lots of laughs, airtight plot, rational conclusion...a great read...the suspense never rests.
Entertainment Weekly
...engagingly written, with some sly satire tucked into its edges...
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The strain of living an excessive, brazen, lavishly upper-tier Manhattan life in an "incredibly self-centered, every-man-for-himself world" takes a disastrous toll on the narrator of Roughan's supremely hip, brazen debut. Right from the opening pages, married 30-something cutthroat attorney Philip Randall shamelessly admits to enjoying an extramarital affair with Jessica, his best friend Connor's girlfriend. He's definitely not a likable guy, especially when spewing smug commentary on just about every aspect of city life, and when socializing with wife Tracy's haughty Greenwich, Conn., family. But enter penniless "stoner" Tyler Mills, a prep school buddy of Philip's, who has unexpectedly blown into town, and this time Philip's arsenal of designer labels and street-smart manipulation fails him. Tyler, flashing his "Manson Family grin," has been busy spying on his school chum's secret rendezvous with Jessica and predictably proceeds to blackmail him. Outraged at his friend's audacity and escalating threats, Philip hatches a double-crossing scheme. As Roughan wraps his crafty plot around some impressively tense moments, the novel morphs into an engaging, cinematic page-turner. Auxiliary characters, particularly Philip's robust boss, Jack Devine, and Jack's kind, innocuous wife, Sally, are well-drawn and convincing, adding the depth and humanity necessary to counteract Philip's almost robotic duplicity. The novel's atypical conclusion, awash in wincing retrospection and a refreshing comeuppance, offers a satisfying and sentimental balance. Time-Warner audio book. (June 5) Forecast: Already optioned by USA Films, with the movie version slated to be produced by Michael Douglas, this derivative but slickly vibrant book will doubtless trade on the hype. Targeted marketing transit advertising in the New York area and Wall Street giveaways should help, and jacket blurbs by Bret Easton Ellis, among other yuppie dignitaries, will heighten the buzz. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Up and comer Philip Randall is about to be a down and outer; a prep school buddy has spotted him with his mistress and resorts to blackmail. Numerous foreign rights sales and a forthcoming film make this a debut to watch. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
First-timer Roughan knocks one out of the park with this satisfyingly lean and propulsive thriller. As the titular up-and-comer, Philip Randall narrates his story with an easy confidence that's almost impossible to resist. A cocksure young lawyer at the Manhattan firm of Campbell & Devine, Randall's just about reached the tipping point of complete, unalloyed success. His wife, Tracy, is acquiescent and from money, and his tough-as-nails boss, Jack Devine, has taken a shine to him. Not one to leave things as they are, though, Randall complicates matters by conducting a torrid affair with Jessica, wife to one of his friend Connor. The author deftly elides Randall's hollow conscience by the casual callousness of the affair, never letting Randall slide into a caricature of an American Psycho—style Master of the Universe: he's not a monster, he's just a cold-hearted heel who really doesn't care much about anything or anybody. Having drifted into law simply because it was something he could do and make money at, Randall is more believable a protagonist than the brainy, suited Supermen who populate so many legal thrillers. Roughan's created such a compelling character that he wisely waits until almost halfway through the story before springing the trap.Tyler, one-time pothead and pseudo-friend of Randall's from his prep-school days, pops back into his life unexpectedly with some upsetting news: He's been following Randall and photographing his liasions with Jessica. The price for his silence: $100,000. From this point on, Roughan tightens the screws on Randall with steady, masterly skill. Randall's sly cynicism is ground away by Tyler's relentlessly sadistic hounding, slowlyturning Randall into the kind of nervous wreck that he would have mocked from his once-lofty perch. The dénouement is classically noir, a penitence spoken with the grave, self-mocking humor of one brought low by his own arrogance. An impressive debut. Film rights to October Films and Michael Douglas

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Grand Central Publishing
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The four of us were having dinner together, as we so often did. It was at the Grange Hall down in the West Village. There were Connor and Jessica, Tracy and me. Connor, never one to instigate a conversation let alone dominate it, was nonetheless center stage.

"I realized the other day," he began, his narrow eyes darting back and forth among us, "that we're all at the age now where we can really only rely on our instincts and intellect in order to succeed." Connor stopped for a moment, presumably to let the supposed magnitude of this statement sink in. He continued: "When you think about it, from the ages of, like, twenty-eight to... oh, let's say thirty-four, we're all kind of just out there without a net. I mean, when we're older than that, odds are we'll have collected enough experience- personal, professional, what have you-to get our asses out of almost any jam. And when we were younger, let's face it, nothing really too significant was expected of us, precisely because we didn't have any experience. But those in-between years-right now-that's when we're really on our own."

I remember watching Connor finish that last sentence, the way he deliberately reached for a packet of sugar as if he were testing out an artificial limb. I remember because it was at that precise moment that I wish it had occurred to me: I should probably stop f—-ing his wife.


Absolutely incredible!"

Tracy stood before me, loaded shopping bags in hand, a smile ear to ear. She'd been gone a good six hours.

"Back so soon?" I said, barely looking up from my Sunday Times. But it was clear there wasn't enough sarcasm in the world to burst my wife's bubble. She just ignored me.

"Everything fit; everything I tried on fit me like a glove. It was like karma... clothes karma!" Tracy said with a giggle. "That's what it was!"

Now hold it right there. Were this most anyone else's apartment and the same scene was being played out, odds are the guy in my shoes would start huffing and puffing about how much this little shopping spree was going to set him back. Some heated words would be exchanged, followed by a full-blown argument that in turn would give way to any number of tantrum-related activities such as kicking, screaming, or heaving a vase across the room.

But this wasn't anyone else's apartment, this was our 3,500- square-foot penthouse loft in Chelsea, paid for in cash by my father-in-law, Lawrence Metcalf, as a wedding gift two years ago. Which is not to say I married for money. No, I married for a lot of money.

So when Tracy would go four figures deep into Bergdorf's.or Bendel's, or, on this particular Sunday afternoon, Saks Fifth Avenue, I, Philip Randall, couldn't really give a shit. It wasn't our money she was spending, it was Daddy's, and you didn't have to be the sharpest knife in the drawer to figure out that whatever moral or self-esteem issues one might have with that, it simply wasn't worth acting on them. Period.

"Philip, if you want me, I'll be in the bedroom."

That was code, of course. It meant Tracy wanted to have sex. As if wealth wasn't a blessing enough unto itself, it so happened that spending money made my wife horny. Really horny. And the more she spent, the more horny she got. It actually made for an interesting postcoital ritual. We would finish up, and depending on whatever it was she had let me do to her and how much she had been into it, I would try to guess how much money she'd just spent. Once, on a whim, she bought herself a Cartier Pasha watch at Tourneau. It was the only time we ever had anal sex.

"That was at least three G's," I gasped, rolling off her.

"Two thousand," she gasped back. "Though not including tax."

(Truth be told, I wouldn't have rated it much more than a couple hundred, however, I had learned early on to always come in at a higher number.)

Tracy got up from the bed and headed for the bathroom. I watched her. She was still very thin, as thin as when we first met four years ago. Her breasts were not large, but they were round, a nice shape. Occasionally, after too much to drink, she'd talk about getting implants, though I knew it was something that she'd never do.

"Oh, guess who I bumped into?" came her voice from the bathroom.


Tracy reappeared in her robe. "Tyler Mills," she said.

"No shit."

"Yeah, he remembered me and everything. Of course, I didn't have a clue who he was at first. He looked horrible, though."

"Funny how a suicide attempt will do that to you," I said.

"Where'd you see him?"

"Outside of Saks. He was standing by the doors."

"By himself?"

Tracy nodded.

"What'd you talk about?"

"Nothing, really; I asked how he was doing and all that.

It was- Oh, on second thought, he did say something strange; well, not really strange, just kind of weird."

"What was it?"

"He said he hoped to be talking to you soon."

"You thought that was weird?" I asked.

"It was the way he said it, like it was something that you might not want to do."

"What, did he say that?"

"No, I got the sense that there was more to it, though," she said. "Do you know what it's about?"

"Not a clue."

"Anyway, I gave him our number as well as your one at work. That was okay, right?"

Copyright (c) 2001 by Howard Roughan

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