Bartlett has previously sampled, to good effect, life aboard a fishing vessel (The Finest Kind) and an offshore oil rig (Gulf Star 45)--but his attempt at a parallel fix on a small manufacturer, pseudonymous Pennington, Inc., is flat and hackneyed. For one thing, we know the character-types and the situations from umpteen novels and movies: an old family firm is foundering, the bank sends in a ""company doctor,"" the fence-straddling president is fired, the unsentimental v.p. of manufacturing takes over and precipitates a strike, he hires scabs to replace lifetime workers (backed by the family figurehead boss), the strike collapses as the workers scramble to regain their jobs, life returns to a semblance of normalcy--except that the old fabric of mutual loyalty is forever destroyed. On the business side, we don't know why orders for the company mainstay, superior industrial knives, fell off; and while we learn that front-office operations are inefficient (much cross-effort in filling orders) and watch some shop-floor operations, we hear only vaguely and sketchily about what might be wrong with either production or marketing. What we are told, repeatedly, is that things were ""the way they had always been""--i.e., moribund. And the old ways, along with the Pennington business-""family,"" are doomed by failure and the new, non-""family"" brooms. Much of the book consists of labored, clichÃ‰d profiles of those involved: the crude, loudmouth head of data processing who doesn't fit in, doesn't ""give a damn,"" and jumps ship; or, on the other side, the company gofer and gossip, a 41-year loyalist whose stock-in-trade is ""being useful, being available."" ""Pennington Inc. has given Pauly something to do with his life, and Pauly has responded by giving his life to the company."" There is an element of truth in this, but only an element--alongside the layered human realities of Studs Terkel's Working or the business-struggle realities of Solman and Friedman's Life and Death on the Corporate Battlefield, among others.