I am not going to make this a habit, nor is this really a review, but The 500 by Matthew Quirk prompted me to write this. At the beginning of this year I made it a point to read more—which is not to say that I don’t read, it’s just that most of my reading consisted of online articles, and movie screenplays. The 500 is the twenty-fifth book I’ve finished reading this year. I am aware that it is the 4th of June which means I’m averaging roughly five books a month.
Twenty-five books is a lot for me—I probably finished four last year—and all of them (this year) have been single-narrative (as in no short story collections) fictions. Which is not to say the year has been slow for me business-wise, I just realized that there are different ways to use those 24-hour units we call days.
The reason I am writing about The 500 is because I don’t always know what screenwriting gurus mean when they say that a writer must find something new in a familiar space to truly break into the ranks of working screenwriters. I suppose the same advice holds for novelists because Mr. Quirk has pulled that trick off admirably.
By setting his narrative in a shadowy consulting firm called the Davies Group where a newbie without the proper credentials finds himself in over his head in a world he doesn’t completely understand. Shades of The Firm right there (in fact best-selling author James Patterson says as much in a blurb on the book’s cover). I also detected a bit of the resourceful Mike Ross from the TV show Suits in the behavior of the book’s lead character (who also happens to be named Mike).
So familiar, but also fresh. And to think this is a first novel!
I haven’t read another book yet that provides a glimpse into backroom dealings in Washington. According to Mr. Quirk this is a world of political favours, international intrigue, and all the sex, drugs and violence we have come to associate with Hollywood.
So I really enjoyed the book, I was grateful for the absence of word count-padding descriptive passages that bore me into page skimming, and felt like I’d be curious to check out the inevitable movie (currently in development according to the book’s official website).
I’m not sure I’ve got a hang of how to incorporate this ‘same same but different’ thing into my own ‘spec’ writing, but I was glad to have at least been able to spot it when I saw it.
So if you happen to be in the mood for a fast-paced read I recommend The 500.
[ PS: Embedded below is a trailer for the book. ]