Executive Times






2008 Book Reviews



New Bedlam by Bill Flanagan




(Mildly Recommended)




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Bill Flanagan uses a family owned cable television network, King Cable, as the backdrop for his novel, New Bedlam. The novel has ample chuckles as Flanagan proceeds at a slow and steady pace with his plot. The King family has issues. One channel handles boomer reruns, another is an arts channel and the third is a comic book channel. Each is run by a child of the company founder, who used to sell cars. Protagonist Bobby Kahn was a network television executive until he was fired, and the King family brings him in to deal with their issues. By the end of the novel, I didn’t care a lot about what happened to any of the characters. Here’s an excerpt, from the beginning of Chapter 3, pp. 22-3:

Bobby collapsed into his airplane seat exhausted. He had fought with his taxi driver over the best route to take to beat the rush-hour traffic to JFK and was sure that the cabbie had driven into the worst bumper-to-bumper construction mess in the five boroughs out of spite.

Check-in did nothing to sooth his anxiety. The airline was prac­ticing tough love with its corporate passengers and the woman be­hind the counter refused to upgrade Bobby to first class on air miles alone. The full cost of a first-class ticket was two thousand, two hun­dred and eight dollars, and did he wish to purchase one? Bobby pointed out that he was already holding an eighteen-hundred-dollar business-class ticket and as he had many thousands of frequent-flier miles, a platinum card, and flew this airline at least twice a month, she should just give him a seat up front if one was sitting empty.

He knew the airlines were having tough times and trying to force business travelers to spend full fare; the unspoken subtext was, hey, it's not YOUR money. In this case, though, it was. Bobby had paid for his own ticket to Los Angeles, the first time he could remember doing that since college, and he was determined to use his miles to get the rest of the way up the plane. It was not a matter of luxury. He was flying to California under the pretext of network business to try to drop in on as many potential new employers as possible. He had lined up lunch with a sitcom producer, dinner with a big syndicator, and a tentative golf game with a former subordinate now doing well at a ri­val network. Bobby was going to have to shovel a lot of schmooze in the next few days, and he could blow the whole thing if anyone from the industry saw him sitting anywhere but first class.

"You know," he said to the clerk with what sweetness he could summon, "my company spends about a hundred thousand dollars on this airline every week. I've always found you folks pretty reasonable about bumping me up if there's an empty seat in first."

"It's not first, sir, it's premium."


She clicked through her computer screen. She seemed to be tak­ing longer than necessary. Finally she said, "We do have one seat open in premium. How would you like to pay for it?"

Bobby pointed again to his Platinum Miles card on the counter. The woman said, "It will cost you ten thousand air miles plus a same-day access fee of seventy-five dollars."

"Fine," said Bobby. She took a phone call. Bobby boiled. Eventu­ally she printed out a green and white computer card, drew lines through it, scribbled all over its face, and told him he better hurry, the flight was about to board and it was at the very last gate at the farthest archipelago of the terminal.

He thanked her for taking such good care of him and smiled.


There are enough funny passages in New Bedlam to keep turning the pages. Like many cable shows, it’s easier sometimes to keep watching to see what happens rather than turn it off or switch channels.


Steve Hopkins, January 22, 2008



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The recommendation rating for this book appeared

 in the February 2008 issue of Executive Times


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