A wily thriller about expert selling as the secret to life, love and surviving a cutthroat arms deal.
Peyton Banks, possessed of insights uncommon in a callow 23-year-old, wows a Chicago sales-training seminar by ditching the scripted hard sell and demonstrating his folksy rapport-building. Demi Bonet, the fetching vice president of shadowy Jaguar Investments, is especially impressed. She doesn’t mind Peyton’s lanky frame and laconic self-assurance; he’s no sad-sack Willy Loman but a smooth operator with a good, if calculating, heart. She relishes his romantic potential, too, and also decides he’s the perfect cat’s-paw for a complex plot to frame an old family enemy. Peyton thinks the merchandise Jaguar wants him to move is a bit exotic—AK-47s and worse—but it’s still just merchandise, not much different from the water softeners and sound systems he’s used to peddling; he expects his usual tactics will help with an easy closing. But he has no idea of the many currents of corruption and vengeance snaking through the deal or that FBI agents are watching his every move. Peyton finally realizes that he’s in over his head when he finds himself in Cuba for a very bloody product demo. Eubanks is a sales manager and trainer by trade, and his passion for the art of selling sometimes awkwardly intrudes into his otherwise smoothly crafted yarn. There’s purplish talk of Shakespearean subtleties that emphasize “the sacred mission to sell what is wanted” and a nonfiction appendix on “Sales Fundamentals,” which are psychologically sophisticated and interesting on their own terms; Eubanks sometimes integrates them nicely into the plot as Peyton deploys his tricks to manipulate, coax and bluff his adversaries as he would any prospect. At other times, however, the sales concepts are presented in canned set pieces that slow the narrative to a crawl. Still, Eubanks’ writing talent wins through with brisk action, shrewdly observed characters and hard-boiled atmospherics.
An entertaining if occasionally didactic tale of salesmanship gone rogue.