THE COMPETITOR by Thomas Bontly
Kirkus Star


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The Competitor is a fast-paced, tidy little novel which takes place during one working day in...a shoe store. Despite the probable dreariness and banality of the setting Thomas Bontly manages to dramatize the events of the big sales day in Friendly's Shoe Corp. and at the same time to make the fate of his hero Marty (has the name now come to stand for the ordinary man?) Hansen of very real concern to the reader. Hansen, a hustling competent salesman who views his job as something more than huckstering, has been trapped by Friendly's for eighteen years with the promise of an eventual managership. He is, on this Saturday before school opens, the assistant manager of the midwestern store which is run by a devious type who is playing the angles and sloughing off his own work on Marty. Hansen feels he has to cooperate with his manager and at the same time keep his own sales record above that of the other salesmen. The novel relates his struggle between 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. to maintain this equilibrium against flashbacks of his earlier history. There is the possibility of violence at the end of this very brief story when Marty learns how his manager has been using him but the only release he is permitted is the satisfaction of firing a Latin lover salesman. In detailing a specialized ability while attempting to portray life in miniature, The Competitor very much resembles The Hustler. But the author of that novel about pool playing was not so blatant as to directly inform us of his intention. This is The Competitor's big failing and it's an outstanding flaw in an otherwise absorbing and moving story.

Pub Date: March 18th, 1965
Publisher: Scribners