Back in the eighties, I watched the film, 'Mr. Mom', starring one of my favorite actors at the time, Michael Keaton. When Keaton's character loses his job at a car company, his wife takes a job at an advertising firm. Left at home to care for the house and kids, he grows jealous of his wife's new life of creating successful ads, going on business trips, and 'bringing home the bacon'. I found it somewhat odd that she had moved up so rapidly at the ad agency; it seemed to be too...easy.
A couple of decades later, the wonderful series, 'Mad Men', appeared, and it is set in the 'swinging sixties', an era of smoking indoors, consuming vast quantities of booze while at work, play, and home, and serious feminist issues. It's an intriguing show, but I have to admit that I'm in love with Jon Hamm, the star of the series. Sure, his character is a pig, but he's a hardworking pig. The viewer is treated to the mean inner workings of an ad agency, and it leaves one exhausted. But the only reason I'll sit through the Superbowl is to watch the fantastic commercials and applaud the creative teams who come up with such interesting ideas.
When 'Truth in Advertising', the first novel by John Kenney, landed in my lap, I wondered if it would be a gritty exposé of the advertising world. Upon learning that Kenney had worked as a copywriter for about seventeen years, I decided to give his book a try. Experience makes all the difference when it comes to writing a story based on an author's former 'day job'.
First of all, I laughed my ass off. Honestly. Kenney's main character, Fin Dolan, works for a Madison Avenue ad agency, and his inner voice is sharp, sardonic and downright hilarious. Not long before the story begins, Fin has cancelled his wedding, and now, a few days before Christmas, he's forced to cancel a vacation in order to come up with a diaper ad which will air during the Superbowl.
But this story isn't all laughs. Fin grew up in a home with an abusive father, who later abandoned the family. And now that father is ill and alone. Despite the fact that he has siblings, Fin is the only one who visits his father, and while doing so, mulls over his past lies and mistakes and the choices he has made.
Like I said, you'll laugh out loud. Kenney has a real talent for making his characters come alive, but his true gift is getting to the heart of Fin Dolan; what makes him tick, why he lies.
'Truth in Advertising' is poignant and moving, wicked and funny.
And that's the truth.
'Truth in Advertising' will be released in early January 2013 by Touchstone Books, a division of Simon & Schuster