IN THE ROOMS by Tom Shone

IN THE ROOMS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A quick-witted literary agent sees a world of opportunity when he spots a long-lost legendary author at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

Best known for his long tenure with the Sunday Times, British film critic Shone (Blockbuster: How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Summer, 2004) brings together breakneck comic dialogue and a British comic’s irreverent attitude toward America’s sacred cows in his debut novel. A comedy that is tangentially about alcoholism, the book has that hazy, thick-minded sensation of a hangover. Shone’s mirror on New York City is Patrick Miller, a British refugee from the London publishing scene who has fled to the new world after a horrendously bad breakup. This is a bloke so damaged he flees his own countrymen. “Even the Samoans had their flag-waving day, the Puerto Ricans their march,” Miller bemoans. “You never heard a peep out of the British. All we got was the chance to look vaguely apologetic on July 4. We were the guys everyone had come here to get away from. Our mere presence canceled out the point of the place.” Miller plots a Hornby-esque second chance when he spots Douglas Kelsey, a legendary two-fisted novelist whose seminal novel made him a man of American letters before he flamed out over a war of words with his publisher. Naturally, Patrick can’t just slide up to Kelsey, though. He has to stalk him all the way into an AA meeting, where he feigns being a drunk in order to cozy up to his next paycheck. The dichotomy between the two—Patrick the anxious neophyte who’s way out of his league and Kelsey the grizzled eccentric—is endearing, more so than the clumsy romance that Shone throws in for balance. And there’s a little truth beneath its glossy sheen, too. “It’s not alcoholism that creates great novels,” Kelsey explains. “And it’s not sobriety. It’s denial.”

An overly enthusiastic fish-out-of-water comedy that peppers glibness with insight.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-312-62278-7
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2011