18 March 2010

Review: DEADLINE MAN, Jon Talton

ISBN 978-1-59058-714-0
I read this on my Kindle, with a ARC copy provided by the publisher, Poisoned Press.
Publication date: 1 May 2010

A combination of economic downturn and the growth of the digital media has led to the decline in popularity of newspapers. During 2008 in the UK 53 regional newspapers closed. In the US some long standing family newspapers closed in 2008-2009, and a number filed for bankruptcy. "Real" journalists were also having their living undermined by bloggers, and free online news sources. Some newspapers try to survive by trimming staff down to essentials.

This is the background against which DEADLINE MAN is set. The economic crisis brings with it not only the loss of savings for Mr and Mrs Average, but suicide amongst those financial whizzes whose  hedge fund manipulations were responsible for the huge losses. But was that what Troy Hardesty did? After all, Seattle is known as the suicide capital of the world.

As the economic columnist on Seattle's family owned newspaper the Free Press, known to us only as "the columnist", walks away from the building in which he has just interviewed Hardesty, the financier's body plummets twenty floors down into the bonnet of the new black Toyota Camry sitting behind a bus in the curb lane.

Hardesty's hedge fund has just invested $75 million into a Silicon Valley startup. In the interview he had seemed confident in his own ability to survive, a long way from potential suicide. He tells "the columnist" that newspaper journalism is over. When asked what he knows about Olympic International he counters with a question about what "the columnist" knows about eleven-eleven. Half an hour later "the columnist" has a good start for his Sunday column, and minutes after that Troy Hardesty is dead.

From the moment Troy Hardesty dies "the columnist" is a marked man. No-one who knows him is safe, and very nasty people attempt to ensure that the column he is writing never makes it to the presses, and indeed that the newspaper itself dies.

It is obvious that Jon Talton knows what he is talking about in the world of journalists, and the background of the recent financial crisis adds a level of authenticity. Blended into the story is a strand about a missing teenage girl, and there are very real dangers to "the columnist's" many girl friends. I came away feeling I knew a lot more jargon from the publishing industry, although there were times when I found it just a bit overwhelming. This is a tightly written thriller worth thinking about reading.

My rating: 4.4

Other reviews you might like to read:
Jon Talton's website.
His blog: Rogue Columnist


Margot Kinberg said...

Kerrie - Thanks for this review. I always enjoy learning when I'm reading a crime fiction book, and it sounds like this one teaches one a lot. The plot sounds intriguing too...

Kay said...

Kerrie, thanks for sharing about this book. I will put it on my wishlist. I was considering whether I would like it or not but it sounds interesting. Is it annoying that you just know the person as "the columnist"? I was sort of annoyed just reading about it.

Kerrie said...

Because the book is written in the first person it was only when I came to write the reviw that I realised I wasn't sure of, and then didn't know, "the columnist"'s name. When people meet him they say "Oh, you are the columnist" which I think is his by-line on his newspaper column. His photo must be visible sometimes.


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