Grimes forsakes Supt. Richard Jury’s British haunts (The Grave Maurice, 2002, etc.) for a criminal farce played out in the cutthroat world of New York publishers.
When you’re a wealthy, successful author, with two million copies of your last book sold, who lives modestly in the East Village and watches publishers lining up like trained seals to compete for your next manuscript, you have pretty much whatever you want, and what Paul Giverney wants is Tom Kidd as his editor. More specifically, he wants Mackenzie-Haack, the house Kidd works for, to break its contract with Ned Isaly, a gifted but deeply noncommercial author Kidd works with so that Kidd won’t be encumbered by a more talented writer than Paul. Clive Esterhaus, the senior editor at Mackenzie and Haack that Paul offers this deal to, recoils from the prospect of losing not only Ned Isaly but other Kidd authors who’d surely follow their indignant editor out the door, and so does his equally venal publisher, Bobby Mackenzie. But there is a solution to this mass exodus: hire a hit man to kill Ned, freeing up Kidd without collateral damage. So Clive puts in a call to Danny Zito, a Mackenzie-Haack author now in the Witness Protection Program, who delivers not one but two button men, Candy and Karl, who’ll be only too happy to take care of Mackenzie-Haack’s problem once they’ve gotten to know their target—by trailing him, reading his books, and hanging around the literary set. By the time Clive realizes this genie is never going back into the bottle, the stage is set for a surrealistic showdown on the streets of Pittsburgh, whither everyone in the cast has adjourned to stalk everyone else.
Publishing’s archly amusing answer to Get Shorty—except that since it’s books rather than movies, instead of crazy things happening very fast, crazy things get talked about at length and not all that much happens in the end.