There’s no reason this novel should not be traditionally published. The only reason I could surmise is that maybe there were a number of novels surrounding the advertising industry coming out at the same time. I have to plead ignorance that I have not read a lot of novels about ad execs. But Commercial Break stands very well on its own – a great blend of both satire and realism. Both totally outlandish and plausible, which is the most important aspect of a satire.
Commercial Break is about the Adam Glassman, an advertising executive who hates his industry. A novelist trapped in an executive’s body. He is so fed up with the liars and sharks in the ad world that he devises a plan to rip off his clients by creating the same ad for eight different clients and running it on the Super Bowl – the world’s most expensive ad buy – and then fleeing with their money. Meanwhile his marriage is falling apart, he’s sleeping with an assistant, and every action is as self-destructive as it is destructive of his clients’ bank accounts.
Initially, I was somewhat put off by the lead character. His wife chides him for not being enthusiastic about an ad campaign for beer that involves blonde women in bikinis, as he feels he’s compromising his integrity. Though the beer commercial is generic and dumb, Adam Glassman doesn’t really offer an alternative, and what exactly does a beer commercial with integrity look like? Beer commercials are almost always offensively bad on some level. So the protest seems misguided and his nagging wife could be seen as the reasonable one. But along the way, there’s very funny writing describing the myriad of creeps he meets in his business:
“So, Hot Posse boys, you wanna dance with my special ladies? They how to move, believe me.” The twins still gave no response. Adam wondered for a moment if they were actually wax figures, or maybe some type of high-tech sex dolls. Then he noticed the right one lick her lips and he figured that while very little about them could be described as “real,” they were probably human.
And finally you realize the “Break” of Commercial Break: Adam Glassman is driven by some seriously self-destructive instincts. When he devises his criminal plot, it has an ambition that he was clearly lacking in the earlier part of the book, so you’re on board with the ad exec ripping off his mostly-horrible clients and want him to succeed. That’s what makes the book so entertaining, plausible, and page-turning.
It’s no surprise that Keith Harmeyer comes from this industry. He says, “As a creative director and copywriter, I have conceived and written dozens of ads for bestselling novels by Tom Clancy, Nora Roberts, Jack Higgins, John Sanford, Dick Francis, Alice Hoffman, and numerous others.”
His understanding of both the ad world and what it takes to make a page-turning commercial novel are evident in this book. With the success of “Mad Men,” you’d think that a novel like this would be snatched up, and it should be. Commercial Break is a highly-entertaining read, a nearly archetypal satire of the ad world. There are many little details that bring this novel to life – such as one of the ad clients running a clothing line for women called SheShe, something that seems very much like it could exist. It’s these small details that move the novel along, as you know you’re in the hands of someone who knows his subject well, and who also knows a lot about pacing.
My one pet peeve with this novel is that the right margins are not justified. For such a professionally-written book, this is a strange oversight. Another criticism is that the writing isn’t as playful as it could be. It’s professionally-written and fast-moving, but the writing never colors too far outside the lines. But fixing the margins and maybe adding a publisher’s logo on the spine and back cover of the book and this book would be indistinguishable from a novel put out by a mainstream traditional press. Overall, this is one of the better books read by the Self-Publishing Review.