Almost every other review of this book makes reference to it’s roman a clef nature – the main character Adam Lang is a thinly veiled portrait of former British Prime Minster, Tony Blair. They go on and on about the clever plot and dialogue and point out all the parallel political tidbits. But, I don’t give a damn about the political nature of the story. No one ever points out the major glaring error which forced me to literally THROW THIS BOOK ACROSS THE ROOM and say “Screw you, Mr. Harris, be a better writer.”
A quick summary: Former British prime minister Adam Lang (modeled on Tony Blair) is up against a firm deadline to submit his memoirs to his publisher, and the project is dangerously derailed when his aide and collaborator, Michael McAra, perishes in a ferry accident off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. To salvage the book, a professional ghostwriter is hired to whip the manuscript into shape, but the writer, who is never named, soon finds that separating truth from fiction in Lang’s recollections a challenge. The stakes rise when Lang is accused of war crimes for authorizing the abduction of suspected al-Qaeda terrorists in Pakistan, who then ended up in the CIA’s merciless hands. As the new writer probes deeper, he uncovers evidence that his predecessor’s death may have been a homicide and begins to fear for his own life.
Okay, sounds fine. The book opens with the ghostwriter meeting with the publishers and taking on the job of finishing the Prime Minister’s memoirs. He has one month to take the unreadable manuscript and turn it into something salable. It will be his largest pay day ever – $200,000 for four weeks of work. The writer has made a decent living churning autobiographies of rock stars, celebrities and sports figures, but this assignment is the opportunity of a lifetime.
He also has to sign a confidentiality clause and is under strict guidelines as how and where he can work on the manuscript. He can only work on the manuscript at the palatial house on Martha’s Vineyard where the PM and wife are living. He cannot discuss the manuscript with anyone. He cannot make copies. His laptop on which he is writing and editing the book, cannot leave the mansion. The writer has no problem with that … hey, he’s making $200,000 to basically re-write a completed manuscript.
So what does this idiot do? On page 98, after an interview session with the PM, the writer e-mails a copy of the manuscript to himself so he can work on the book at night while he’s in his hotel room. That was the moment when I tossed this book. The only reason for this idiotic action was to give the novel its plot. Who cares if it goes against everything we have learned about the character? It’s the plot that counts.
And another thing: if it was so important for the manuscript to stay secret until publication why in the hell is the writer staying at a deserted hotel in off season Martha’s Vineyard? Why wasn’t the writer sequestered in the mansion with the PM and wife and staff and secret service? Why? Because then, there is no plot.
“Screw you, Mr. Harris. Be a better writer.”