A time-travel fantasy novel about the philosophical core of an auto dealership.
In their involving, terrifically readable debut, Vee and Miller present the story of Mark Dunham, a struggling young car salesman who’s in an extremely protracted slump at Langford Auto Sales. Lately, he’s even had to wear a promotional gorilla suit to bring in business. The costume was the idea of his raspy old colleague Earl Cochrane, who’s “been here since the Stone Age” and thinks he’s “God’s gift to car sales.” Disoriented by the boiling-hot get-up, Mark stumbles down a hatch into the dealership’s dark storm cellar, where, bruised and confused, he discovers a film canister labeled “The Last Up,” apparently left down there by Henry “Hank” Langford, the business’s long-dead founder. Mark is on thin ice with his wife, Charlotte, while his boss, Alan Langford, Hank’s son, has spoken to him about his nonexistent sales record, so he figures that he has nothing to lose by playing the old film. But in the process of doing so, he finds himself transported back in time to the heyday of Langford Auto, back in the 1950s, when the business was under the control of Hank himself. The old master quickly takes Mark under his wing and initiates him into the finer arts of salesmanship. The resulting narrative, by rights, ought to be a hokey, niche-market parable. But instead, it’s utterly captivating from start to finish, easily and smartly broadening its scope far beyond the specifics of selling to the nature of human interaction itself: “There’s only one way to show people that you really care, kid—and it’s not to kiss their behinds,” Hank instructs him in one conversation. “It’s not to give them prizes or cut your prices either. It’s to be interested in them—to ask questions and be genuinely interested in the answers.” The relationship that develops between Mark and the Falstaffian Hank is thoroughly charming, and the insights that Mark gains allow Vee and Miller to subtly coach any prospective salespeople who might be reading. However, the novel will also appeal beyond those ranks to a more general readership.
An engaging, funny tale about salesmanship and much more.