The Agency: A Novel

The Agency: A Novel

by Ally O'Brien

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429918626
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 02/03/2009
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
File size: 322 KB

About the Author

Ally O'Brien is the pseudonym for a writing duo that includes an international bestselling author of suspense novels and a successful, well-known international entertainment agent based in London.

Ally O'Brien is the pseudonym for a writing duo that includes an international bestselling author of suspense novels and a successful, well-known international entertainment agent based in London. O'Brien is the author of The Agency.

Read an Excerpt


Chapter 1


Eight thirty-seven in the morning, en route from Putney Heath to Piccadilly, first crisis of the day. People push the crisis button in my business like a lab rat pushes a lever to get pellets of food, but this is a big one. Lowell Bardwright was just found hanged by his Hermès tie, his fingers clenched in a death grip around his dick.

Lowell is my boss. Well, not anymore.

“Was it erotic asphyxia?” I asked my assistant.

“Erotic what?”

“Was this some kind of sex game?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Emma replied. “I assumed it was suicide.”

Not bloody likely.

“No, I’m sure it was an accident,” I said.

When you are the managing partner of a successful entertainment agency, you don’t kill yourself. Lowell made millions of pounds on the ability of people like me to attract scribblers, footballers, Soho chefs, and other celebs who can be hocked to the public on grocery store book stands or on the eight million channels of satellite TV. He had a flat by the Thames and a weekend home outside Cambridge. God was going to have to come down to wrestle Lowell personally into the afterlife.

“Was he alone?” I asked.

“I guess he was.”

“Don’t be so sure. If I know Lowell, he found himself a Julia Roberts look-alike who freaked when he stopped breathing.”

“What’s erotic asphyxia?” Emma asked with an unhealthy curiosity.

Emma is twenty-five, and what she lacks in her face she makes up for in the size of her breasts and the tightness of her drainpipe jeans. I remember what it was like at that age, when your sex drive revs like a Ferrari. Hell, I’m still like that, although I’ve downshifted a little in my midthirties. Emma is into girls, however, and I play for the traditional team.

“Some people say that the sensation of orgasm is heightened by lack of oxygen,” I told her. “So they try cutting off their air as they get close to coming. Unfortunately, a lot of them wind up like Lowell, so don’t try this at home, Emmy. I know you.”

“Hmm,” she said.

You want to watch every head snap around on the 14 bus? Say the word “orgasm” on the phone.

“What does this mean for the agency?” Emma asked.

Good question. Every entertainment agency boasts of having the most influence and the best connections, and they’re all quick as hyenas to pounce on any sign of weakness in a competitor. Right now, the phone lines of London are buzzing. Did you hear about Lowell? My God, what a shock. Of course, without him, they don’t have anyone who can reach the senior producers at the Beeb. Oh, it’s true, and he was their top man for Fleet Street, too. This may be the time to think about switching your representation, my dear.

Meanwhile, inside the Bardwright Agency, where I work, they’re busy soft-selling Lowell’s importance. He was beloved, darling, but he was a figurehead. Hadn’t closed a big deal in years. Never missed an industry party. A “mentor” to every twenty-four-year-old girl in the agency, that scoundrel, ha-ha. No, we’ll miss him, but don’t worry, nothing will really change without him around.

But that’s not exactly true.

There will be one big change, and it affects me more than anyone.

“Cosima will be in charge now,” I told Emma.

“Oh, Lord.”

In my head, I heard a blast of organ music. You know, like in silent films, when the mustachioed villain in a black cape abducts the blond virgin. Not that you’ll find many virgins in this business.

“I hope the police checked for coral Dior lipstick around Lowell’s mushroom,” I said. “Cosima has been looking to send Lowell to an early grave for years. Maybe she was there to help him along.”

“You are so bad.”

I did feel a little bad, only because I wasn’t crying over Lowell’s death. I’d worked down the hall from him for ten years, after he’d hired me out of the book biz. Me, I thought the agents made the money, which was what I needed back then. No one told me that the partners who own the agency make the money, and the rest of us divide up the crumbs that fall from their smacking lips onto the floor. Lowell and I had had our run-ins over the years, but he was a decent guy. Big, loud, with tobacco breath and roving hands. Fifty-five years old, a lifer in the biz, who remembered a time when bookstores sold more than the fucking Da Vinci Code and films didn’t rise or fall on the box office receipts from the opening weekend. He never pushed me to drop clients who had potential, even if their sales were underperforming. He indulged my fading ideals that it really meant something to find the next Ian McEwan or Salman Rushdie. On the other hand, I saw the numbers on the royalty statements from my clients, and then the numbers on my agency paycheck, and never the twain did meet.

However, Cosima Tate makes Lowell look like Sir Gawain gallantly taking on the Green Knight. I admit I have my own reasons for loathing Cosima, but I’m not alone in feeling that way at the agency. She is our wicked witch—the kind of witch who would have bitch-slapped Dorothy and served up Toto sausages to the flying monkeys.

“What does this mean for us?” Emma asked, which was the obvious question. I like that Emma says “us” when she talks about herself and me. She is as loyal an assistant as you can find. Organizing my life is not my skill set, and without Emma I would probably starve because I would never know when, where, or with whom I was having a single meal.

“We’ll be fine—don’t worry.”

“Yes, but Cosima hates you,” Emma whispered.

True enough, but I am bulletproof.

“We have Dorothy, darling, remember?”

“Oh, well, that’s true.”

Dorothy Starkwell, an American eccentric who lives in the Tribeca area of Manhattan, writes tomes about talking pandas that have become the biggest thing in children’s fiction since Pooh set foot in the Hundred Acre Wood. She is my client. She is my gravy train. As long as I write eight-figure deals for her—and the latest deal is in the offing—no one will touch me.

And at that moment, I had my big idea.

If I knew the pain that idea would cause me in the next few days, I wonder whether I would have handled things differently. Perhaps I should have been more paranoid and realized that people really were after me. Or I should have known how resourceful and vengeful Cosima could be. However, when you are thirty-six, you never think about being forced to start your life over; and the truth is, it is every bit as hard as anyone will tell you. Still, sometimes you have to wipe the slate clean and find out if you are truly the person you always imagined yourself to be.

“Do I still have lunch with Guy on Friday?” I asked Emma.


Guy Droste-Chambers is Dorothy’s editor, the man who makes the deals. He is a sleazy bastard, but Dorothy is infatuated with his wordsmithing. Or perhaps he reminds her of her panda hero, Butterball, with his porky belly and soup dripping down his chin. Regardless, Dorothy will not hear of switching editors or publishers, despite my advice that she could do better elsewhere.

“Take the lunch out of my calendar, will you?” I said.

“You mean cancel it?”

“God, no, keep the appointment but delete it from the agency calendar right away, okay? Don’t mention this to anyone. Just remember to remind me about lunch on Friday.”


Emma knew better than to ask me why. The truth is, I wasn’t entirely sure myself. All I knew was that I didn’t want Cosima to find out that Guy and I were close to inking a new contract for Dorothy that would gross around ten million pounds in advance money. In agency terms, that’s one and a half million to us. Not that I would see any of that myself.

Which brings me back to that big idea of mine.

I’m thinking of going out on my own. Launching my own agency.

Copyright © 2009 by Brian Freeman and Ali Gunn.  All rights reserved.  For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

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The Agency 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 33 reviews.
slpenney07 on LibraryThing 24 days ago
Sorry for the late review as I was lucky enough to snag an Early Reviewer copy.However, I did think that I had wrote a review, then promptly forgot about this title. I didn't like it.Tess was a tolerable character. She would have made an excellent antagonist, only she was the protagonist. While I didn't necessarily agree with actions of her antagonists, I definitely understood their motives.When everything finally starts going right for Tess, I couldn't cheer or even muster a smile. I felt like the ends justified the means, and I didn't like the means nor the fact that Tess would do it again if this were a series.The writing is quite good however and keeps the rating higher than one star only for that reason.
Wrighty on LibraryThing 24 days ago
Tess Harper has worked for Bardwell International for 10 years and has made multimillion dollar deals. She is very good at what she does, in work and in bed. And she has been in some beds she shouldn't have been in. It's a fast pace with high stakes and Tess has made some enemies. Some of them are trying to move her out of the industry and when the senior partner of the agency dies a mysterious and dramatic death someone decides that Tess should take the fall. Cosima Tate is now the partner in charge and she would love to see it happen. Tess has been planning to start her own agency. She thought this could be the time to go for it but will she get the chance? Will she have any clients left to take with her?There's plenty of twists and turns in this back biting, yet humorous story of one woman's ambitions. In her world betrayal can sometimes get you farther than loyalty. Tess has done both.
Fluffyblue on LibraryThing 3 months ago
When I started reading this book, I really didn't think I was going to enjoy it. I didn't like Tess Drake, the main character. She came across as ruthless, unfriendly and overly sexed. However, as I read the book my opinion of her changed. Okay, so I wasn't so keen on all the sex scenes (it's just not my type of reading) but in the end she showed herself to be hard working, and a little bit hard done by - although by her own admittance, this was due to mistakes she had made.Without giving too much away, the plot was interesting enough and there were plenty of twists and turns - particularly at the end, although I have to say the happy ending was one I'd already predicted, but I think that the book pointed the reader in this direction anyway.Overall, I thought it was a great book, which I found easy to read and spent most of today reading!
izzybru on LibraryThing 3 months ago
I liked this book..not loved it.I found myself skipping pages and rolling my eyes at some of the sex scenes.It is an easy read, maybe to take on a trip or to the beach.
PattyJC on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Tess Drake is not a character that you automatically love. In fact, i is easy to hate her. She is shallow and self-centered. Love her or hate her, you won't forget her. She has a high-powered career, is in love (with a married man), and has dreams of opening her own agency. She is also a suspect in a murder.This book is chick lit with a twist - suspense. It is the murder mystery that kept me reading long after Tess Drake's character left a bad taste in my mouth. The reveal at the end of the book was surprising. I actually found myself wishing there was a second book to see what happened next in Tess' life. Did she finally learn her lesson?
mydogatebob on LibraryThing 3 months ago
I didn't really enjoy this book. I found it poorly written, the main character unnecessarily bitchy and over sexed. The story is okay, but could have been better done. I had no sympathy for anyone, and felt that the betrayal at the end was completely unlikely. The set up of Tess had to have been planned for an extremely long time - something done out of extreme hatred and I didn't feel that any of the characters in the book had quite that. Plus murdering a man to get at her? Seems ridiculously extreme.
theepicrat on LibraryThing 3 months ago
I had mentioned on last Thursday that The Agency reminded me of Bridget Jones' Diary but Tess Drake would be more like Daniel Cleaver (played by Hugh Grant in the movie) with a touch of Bridget-ness to her. I really enjoyed writing style - there were some hilarious and snarky comments sprinkled throughout, and I found myself running through the pages to see what Tess would say next.
mbsam on LibraryThing 3 months ago
The Agency is a romp through the world of publishing, as viewed through the eyes if its heroine, Tess Drake. Witty, foul-mouthed, and hilarious, Tess interacts with characters that range from a clinically depressed genius author, to an evil agency head, to a lusty assistant, to Tom Cruise.It's fun and thrilling and very, very entertaining. Highly recommended.
Kegsoccer on LibraryThing 3 months ago
I kinda flip-flopped on how I felt about this book. It definitely caught my interest, but then again it's hard to avoid a first page that mentions erotic asphyxiation. I guess you have to figure out whether or not you can handle a book that is in your face about certain things, among them a woman who knows what she wants and does something about it.In our society women having sex has a negative connotation. Men who have lots of sex are applauded by their own sex, while women who have sex are considered loose. I admit, as a woman, I've felt that a woman was loose or slutty if she had a lot of sex, and that's a view I think I need to overcome.The main character in this book can be likened to Samantha from "Sex in the City". She has sex, she isn't ashamed of it, and she has no problem talking about it- for the most part. She's fresh, and she's what makes the book interesting. Plus it's an eye opening look at the publishing industry.I ended up enjoying this book, and eagerly hoping for a sequel. That's not to say it was all fun and games.... and sex. There are moments that I got all teary-eyed, as events unfolded that I couldn't stop and hurt me (along with the main character). But yeah, if you think you can handle it-- pick this book up asap.
jillianmarie on LibraryThing 3 months ago
I hate the name of the genre but I am a fan of 'Chick-lit' books easy reads where you know that they'll be a happy ending. As far as The agency goes it's got all the components of a good 'Chick-lit' novel glamourous 30 something woman in high flying job wearing designer clothes and sleeping with unsuitible men, I thought I had it sussed how Tess the heroine would end up. The Agency though has twists and turns and a murder enquiry and lots of bad language to boot, I liked that Tess wasn't simpering polite and waiting for her man that she was following her ambitions in her career not in her love life. As a thirty-one year old I'm finding it harder and harder to find books about thirty somethings that aren't set in the suburbs or the country and involve childcare and husbands infidelity.I read The Agency in two days so obviously found it gripping, I am curious as to who the author actually is as Ally O'Brien is a pseudonym for two authors, I'd be interested to know if one is a man as my only complaint with the book was Tess' almost male attitude to sex and the sex scenes were extremely graphic. However the novel was well written and paced and I would read books by this author again.
24girl on LibraryThing 3 months ago
I loved the writing in this book and was surprised to learn it is co-written by two authors. The writing is seamless, funny and witty without being too much of a chick-lit read. Within just a few pages you get the idea that this isn't going to be a polite book when you learn that Tess¿s boss dies of erotic asphyxia but it all works to make the pages fly by and leave you wanting more. I highly recommend this book to chick lit and contemporary readers.
hillmeredith on LibraryThing 3 months ago
The Agency was a pleasant variation on the tired single girl in the big city makes good form of chick lit. Instead of a man as the main objective of protagonist Tess Drake, we have professional success. It was great to see that career could be as rewarding as sex (or more so). However, that was the sum total of the innovation. The rest of the book is decidedly silly, the supporting characters are more cariactures than people. The novel is also somewhat (unintentionally?) misogynistic; Tess is brought down by her fellow women and saved by the various men in her life, including her father and Tom Cruise. An entertaining yarn, its worth checking out from the library, but I wouldn't spend the cover price for it.
mcelhra on LibraryThing 3 months ago
The Agency is a combination chick-lit/mystery about Tess Drake, a literary agent in London. I didn't find her particularly likable so it was hard to sympathize when a series of terrible things happen to her. However, the mystery storyline was intriguing enough that I wanted to keep reading to find out "whodunit". I had somewhat figured that out by the end but there was still enough of a surprise element that I felt glad I had stuck it out.
quiettype on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Ok, yes. The main character isn't terribly likeable. And the supporting characters are a little one-sided.However. Tess Drake, as we meet her, is an agent in London who feels like she can get more. Not that she needs more, but wants more. She thinks that life revolves around her -- her wants, her friends, her vision -- all logic aside. And it's easy to want to write her off as selfish and egocentric. On the other hand, she takes the time to call an author 9 times just to get through because that author doesn't keep an answering machine, or cell phone, or regular schedule. Oh, and she lives on the other side of an ocean.As to the supporting characters being one-sided, it seems deliberate. The book is about Tess and regardless of how much she likes people, they play a certain role for her: the ideal, the bitch, the view of herself-as-was. Everyone is rated against her.I went in honestly not expecting to enjoy it at all. And it wasn't a book I couldn't put down. But it was solidly good. I could relate to her, even if I didn't like her, and I found that I could still feel a bit sorry for her when things went completely down the tube. And the author has a way with words -- occasionally coarse, but often funny.It's good, light reading. And I'd buy the sequel -- if only to see what sort of a mess Tess will make next.
bookluver-carol on LibraryThing 3 months ago
I read about 6 chapters but that was enough for me. The summary made the book seem great, but once I started reading, I was put off by the narrator. I found the book boring and it didn't engage me in anyway. I think that this book just wasn't for me.
dorisdayrules on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Knew there was a reason for putting off reading this. Although chick-lit can be relatively entertaining, this was really quite tedious. I felt very little empathy at all with Tess Drake (Tom Cruise - no way!!).
risadabomb on LibraryThing 3 months ago
I really liked this book. I loved Tess Drake's character, edgy, feminine and vulnerable all at the same time. I just flew through this book.
citygirl on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Candy: high quality and completely without nutritional content. I gobbled it down. Tess Drake is a cutthroat (that is, successful) literary agent in London who's not above starting rumors about the recently deceased, sneaking around with very very wrong men, married and engaged, and lying lying lying. She knows she's wicked but seems to chalk it up to being a job hazard. As Heidi Klum says, "One day you're in, and the next day you're out." And so it goes for Tess, who despite her best efforts leaves her back exposed to the figurative knife. Quite intelligent, this book, and maybe a tad more sophisticated than The Devil Wears Prada.It's really well done, so much so that I was surprised to discover that the author is actually a writing team of two. (I usually avoid two-author novels, don't you?) Well-plotted satire, quite funny, good dialogue and a satisfying ending. If you like The Devil Wears Prada, as I did, you will probably like The Agency.
arkgirl1 on LibraryThing 3 months ago
In this book the writers have created a main character who is very difficult to like; secondary characters with very little character development; and yet ... There is merit in this book and it has a plot that does draw you on. I found the murder mystery element surprisingly engaging; there were twists and turns in both that plus another plot-strand with an author in a legal battle and that kept you involved but I did struggle with Tess. The first few chapters nearly had me stopping completely it was soooooo plastic and cheap but as I was reading to review I kept on and it defintely did improve. It is over the top and very superficial - maybe that is a comment on that whole PR and media lifestyle but it sometimes became too over the top.The one thing I did think clever was the choice of Tom Cruise as the celebrity who could make a difference in the saleability of one of her favourite clients books - the nod to 'Jerry Maguire' with the importance of just one client to the success or failure of her proposed business amused me. The parallel between Tess as a media agent and Jerry as a sports agent might have been accidental but I'm hoping it was deliberate!!A quick easy read and I might give the writing team another go but I'm hoping for some characters I actually like next time!
jwilk55 on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Sorry that I forgot to write the review. This book didn't thrill me. I "forced" myself to finish it, and then promptly forgot all about it. In my opinion, that's not a good sign...a good book will make you continue to think about/reflect/question it. All I remember is that there was a lot of swearing in it. I wouldn't recommend it to a friend.
Cats57 on LibraryThing 3 months ago
The Agency A Novel by Ally O¿BrienOnce you meet Tess Drake you will never forget her. She has it all: the high powered career, the right clothes, many lovers, and is a suspect in a murder. What she doesn¿t have, she will fight, claw, lie, use her body and scheme to get. You may not like her, you may even hate her as I did, but by the time you finish this novel you will never forget her; and even hope that the author¿s (Ally O¿Brien is the pseudonym for a writing duo) will do a follow up so we can see how Tess fares with the next part of her life.This book is one part chick lit, one part mystery and two parts pure, unadulterated, evil fun. You see, Tess has a dream. She wants to open her own media agency and it seems that the death of one of her bosses via erotic asphyxia is just the kick in the butt she needs to get her out the door.Her clients include an eccentric children¿s writer, a depressed fantasy author who has published a book that sold 11 copies and various others that we never get to meet. The secondary characters kept me going when I thought that I couldn¿t take one more moment of Tess¿s slavishness to her body¿s needs and vindictive, egocentric self-destructive behavior. But the best is yet to come. Her pigeons will come home to roost and roost they surely do.I ended up loving this book and am very sincere when I say that I hope that the authors do some sort of follow up on Tess¿s life. After all we¿ve seen her at her worst, she can¿t get anymore self-destructive (or can she?) so why not let us see her grow? This is a fun and sometimes vulgar look into the life of an agent, and I recommend this highly to anyone looking for an alternative to the angst driven books that seem to populate the shelves lately.
collsers on LibraryThing 3 months ago
In the tradition of "Confessions of a Shopaholic," O'Brien brings us the tale of a single woman in London, searching for business success and love. The book is fast-paced, with an abundance of cultural references and gratuitous smut. These aren't bad things--many enjoyable books have been based on these same cornerstones. My biggest problem with "The Agency" was that I just could not bring myself to like Tess. With seemingly no attractive qualities to her personality, it's no wonder that the reader has as little sympathy for her as the other characters do.
purplg8r on LibraryThing 3 months ago
really enjoyed this book. There wasn't much heavy-duty substance to it. But I found myself thinking about the book when I wasn't reading it and I couldn't wait to get to the end to find out what happened. For some reason, I just really enjoy reading about the entertainment industry. And it doesn't hurt that the Florida Gators (I graduated from UF and am a die-hard Gator fan) and Westies (I grew up always having a Westie puppy).
robin123 on LibraryThing 3 months ago
This book is sooo good! It will keep you entertained for HOURS, unless you can read all 316 pg in less than one hour or something.I loved this book! Once I started reading it, I was hooked! I didn't want to stop reading it, until I was finished, it is that good.Tess is a 36 year old literary agent working for Bardwright Agency. After her boss dies, the next person to take the "throne" is the evil Cosima, who hates Tess's guts. This is the perfect opportunity for Tess to dump that agency and start her own. But....she's got some problems.-She's one of the major suspects/person of interest hehe-Dorothy, the rich children's novelist, has come across a few problems of her own, which cause a lot of stress for Tess-Oliver, Tess's suicidal writer buddy and client of Bardwright Agency, has an incredible book (according to Tess), Singularity, that no one seems to care about.-One way of getting Singularity some publicity would be to make a film of it and Tom Cruise is the PERFECT guy for it. Problem is his agent despises Tess and will not let her get that book anywhere near him.-Tess's ex-best friend, Saleema, is still not talking to her and may be plotting to steal even more of Tess's clients all because Tess may have slept with Saleema's fiance, well ex-fiance. She totally slept with him, in her defense the first time was not her fault.-Tess is sleeping with a married guy, and you will not believe who his wife is.Drama, drama, and more drama plus awesome writing makes this book awesome, so go read it! Do I need to say anything else to convince you to read it? I don't think so. :D
simplykatie on LibraryThing 3 months ago
this book was a very adult book! i'm so used to reading young adult that i sometimes forget just how adult the adult world is. i loved the narrator tess. i thought she was spot-on and snarky! additionally, i was super surprised to find out that the name "ally o'brien" is actually a pseudoname for two other authors. but don't worry, tess's voice is unified and i couldn't even tell that she had been written by two authors. raunchy, hilarious, good fun. and i'm hoping for a sequel!