The used-car lot with funnyman Donegan (No News at Throat Lake, 2000, etc.) and his amusing/depressing take on the business that has come to epitomize sleaze.
“Call me a miserable Scottish git but subconsciously I have long believed that life wasn’t meant to be perfect,” says Donegan, and he acts on that notion by foregoing a Silicon Valley job to sell used cars instead. In what amounts to one anecdote after another about how he amassed the tricks of the trade, he explains to readers how he became an asphalt warrior at Orchard Pre-Owned Autos. Though a long toss from being a car guy, he learns how to pick targets—couples with kids, fat people, Japanese—and scorn the time-wasters: single women and anyone from the subcontinent, China, or Europe. His coworkers offer advice and encouragement: be friendly, don’t be friendly, get rid of the ugly shit, or “selling cars is like fishing.” Donegan has a tendency to press his jokes on his readers much the way salesmen press their lemons on the unsuspecting: “buying a car at Orchard was like having a bit part as a victim in Jaws,” or “she took a test drive at a steady 50 mph, appearing not to notice there was a Metallica concert taking place where the engine should be.” But he also shows some ethics. He abhors the money culture of Silicon Valley and is tempted to explain to a computer executive why he sells cars: “Because it means I don’t have to sit in an office with small-minded, money-obsessed bores like you everyday.” And when, in the end, the phony smiles and petty scams reach critical mass for him, he quits.
Not every book offers concrete advice, but Donegan’s does. Two pieces of it, for that matter: (1) Never work in a used car lot if you cherish your soul, and (2) never buy a used car without a certified mechanic at one elbow and a bunko adviser on the other.