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Money Madness Drives Comedy and Intrigue

By Phelippe Salazar / July 9, 1998



BOSTON

LLOYD: WHAT HAPPENED

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By Stanley Bing

Random House

400 pp., $25.95

THE JOB

By Douglas Kennedy

Hyperion

387 pp., $23.95

For people who promise to leave the office behind, but worry they're missing something, a couple of new novels will help bridge the gap from office to beach.

Lloyd: What Happened, Stanley Bing's first novel, is a hilarious satire of the corporate world. Lloyd works as an executive on the rise in a megacorporation. As the new year begins, upper management hatches the ultimate merger plan, "Moby Deal," which will shake the capitalist world. They tap Lloyd as the man to bring it all together.

He sets off to make the company lean, efficient, and well capitalized. Unfortunately, that demands squeezing more work out of fewer overworked people. Then he must romance merger partners around the world by doing whatever it takes to bring all the players on board, even if that involves arranging financing in communist China.

The plan's ludicrous ambition and immorality quickly take a toll on Lloyd. He realizes that pursuing his business goal is not in his best interest - at home or at work.

"Lloyd" is both a comedic lampoon of the corporate mentality and a pointed indictment of the relentless pursuit of growth and efficiency that leaves so many victims in its wake. Bing, the pseudonym of Gil Schwartz, an executive at CBS, has been writing about business culture since the 1980s in Esquire and Fortune magazines.

Douglas Kennedy, author of the bestselling thriller "The Big Picture," follows up with The Job, a Grisham-esque story also set in corporate New York. Ned Allen is a golden boy of advertising sales for the No. 3 computer magazine. His rise to district sales manager has been rapid, and he feels "born to sell." In fact, Ned is defined by his job. It provides him an identity, but not a moral compass.

The trouble starts when a German conglomerate buys the magazine's parent company. At first, prospects look great. He's offered the publisher's job and a commensurate raise in pay. The catch: He can't tell anyone, not even his wife, until after the holidays.

Upon his return, Ned begins a career nightmare. He finds the deal is off. He's brutally fired and cut off with minimal severance and fewer options.

Kennedy spends the next 200 pages documenting Ned's decline. He's unemployed and unemployable. He's in debt, and no potential employer will have anything to do with him.

When a job does come along, it comes with some mighty strings attached, and Ned finds that there are worse things than being unemployed.

"The Job" moves along quickly and entertainingly, but Kennedy's protagonist is somewhat two dimensional and that makes it hard to care about him. The bulk of the book details the depth of Ned's fall, and, for a thriller, the crisis comes far too late. Several key pieces of the puzzle are withheld too long.

* Phelippe Salazar is a freelance writer based in Boston.