Executive Times






2007 Book Reviews


The Manny by Holly Peterson








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I expected to hate reading Holly Peterson’s debut novel, The Manny. I anticipated that the writing from a billionaire’s (Pete Peterson of Blackstone) daughter would not have been formed through the experiences of a poor starving artist. While the setting is the wealthy and wealthier of the Upper West Side in Manhattan, with which the author is certainly familiar, she surprised me in creating a readable and somewhat entertaining romance novel. Here’s an excerpt, from the beginning of Chapter 3, “The Waffle,” pp. 22-25:


“Hurry, we gotta talk.” My Korean colleague, Abby Chong, had spot­ted me across the crowded newsroom as our colleagues completed a live newsbreak of a space shuttle landing. I passed the rows of cubicles and said hello to some of the twenty-something P.A.’s inside, most of them looking like they hadn’t slept in days. I navigated the portable screening machines lined outside the cubicles, tapes piled precari­ously on top. In my ears, I heard the familiar cacophony of ringing phones, the tapping of computer keyboards, and the audio of dozens of televisions and radios going at once. Abby grabbed my elbow and pulled me toward my door. I managed to pick up three newspapers from the pile.

“You almost knocked my coffee on the floor!” I looked down at a few drops on my new blouse.

“Sorry,” Abby answered. “I’m tired. I’m frazzled. But you’ve got bigger problems now.”

“Really big? Like your Pope problems?”

“No. Crazy Anchorman’s off that. Now Goodman wants a Madonna interview.”

“How do you get from an exclusive with the Pope to an exclusive with Madonna?”

“The cross thing. The crucifixion stunt at her concert from a while ago. He went to a dinner party last night. Sat next to someone who convinced him she would appeal to the eighteen-to-forty-nine demo. He decided she was edgier than the Pope. But only after we were here till four a.m. doing research. He used the ‘fresh’ word. Everything had to be fresh. He wanted Pope references from the Bible so he could write a letter to the Pope and quote them. I told him there weren’t any. He said, ‘He’s the Pope, for Christ’s sake—find them!”

“Well, I won’t be working on Madonna either. I don’t produce celebrity profiles. It’s in my contract.”

“You’re not going to get another contract when you hear what shit you’re in.”

I figured she was overreacting. Abby was always calm when we were live and rolling, and a nervous wreck the rest of the time—like now. Her black hair was clipped on the top of her head like a witch doctor, and she was wearing a bright violet suit that looked simply awful on her. She pushed me into my office and closed the door behind her.

“Sit down,” she said, while she paced around the room.

“You mind if I take my coat off?”

“Fine. But hurry up.”

“Just give me two minutes, please?” I hung my coat on the hanger behind my door, sat down, and took my cranberry scone out of the bag. “Okay, Abby What’s got you so wound up this time?”

She leaned over the top of my desk with her arms straight out. She didn’t hesitate, no niceties, just delivered the fatal news.

“Theresa Boudreaux granted the interview to Kathy Seebright.

They taped it on Monday in an undisclosed location. It’s airing this

Thursday on the News Hour. Drudge already has it on his website.”

She sat down and her left knee bounced uncontrollably I laid my head facedown on the desk with a thunk.

“You’re screwed. No other word for it. I’m sorry Goodman’s not in yet, but apparently our fearless leader called him fifteen minutes ago to give him the news. So the two big cheeses already know.”

I struggled to look up. “Is Goodman trying to reach me?”

“I don’t know. I tried your cell, but it went straight to voicemail.”

I fished my cell phone out of my purse by pulling the cord for my earpiece. The ringer had been in the “off” position since last night and I had forgotten to switch it back. Six messages. I plugged the phone into the charger on my desk. Nausea roiled up inside me. It didn’t help that I’d swallowed a bunch of vitamins on an empty stom­ach. I ripped apart the cranberry scone, picked out a few berries, and lined them up while I thought about my next move. “Give me a sec to figure out how to handle this disaster.”

“I’m here waiting.” She leaned back in her chair with her arms crossing her chest. Abby was a very pretty woman who, at forty-two, looked young for her age, with her straight hair and creamy Asian skin. She was head researcher on the show, and during live broadcasts always sat off-camera five feet from our anchor, Joe Goodman. On the console in front of her were thousands of index cards with any fact and figure a pompous newsman could want in an instant: type of armored tank most commonly used in the Iraq War, number of passengers killed on Pan Am Flight 103, and biographies of important historical figures like Kato Kaelin and Robert Kardashian.

I rattled off some options. “I could just apologize to Goodman right now before he comes charging in here. Preemptive action is always good.” Deep breath. “I could listen to my messages to see if that Boudreaux lawyer bothered to give me a heads-up that his client was talking to another network. He only promised me the interview on Friday. No wonder he didn’t return my calls over the weekend.” I moved the piles of broadcast tapes to create some space on my desk, and they slid to the floor like a mudslide.

“I thought the interview was yours.” Abby was trying to help. “Really I did, especially after your charm-offensive trip last week—I thought you’d nailed it down. Goodman’ll be here in fifteen minutes. Check your messages first so you sound on the ball, even though. . .“

“Even though what?” Even though I had lost the biggest “get” of the year to a perky blonde: Kathy Seebright, America’s official cutie­pie? As insiders, we knew her as the woman with the sugary smile who would chomp a man’s testicles off and spit them in his face. “Why did I tell Goodman on Friday that we had a done deal? I should have known it doesn’t count till the tape is rolling.”

Abby shrugged. Even she didn’t know I’d left work early on Friday to take my daughter to her ballet class. They’d probably assumed I was out greasing the wheels for the interview.

Sometimes sexy women like to act stupid because it helps them get exactly what they want. Theresa Boudreaux was one of those types: a bodacious waffle house waitress with a devilish streak. Unfortunately for a certain high-ranking elected leader, she had the wits to go to Radio Shack and buy herself a nine-dollar phone-recording device. She then used it to tape her dirty phone calls with U.S. Congressman Huey Hartley, a powerful, sanctimonious, married-for-thirty-years politician from the solidly Red State of Mississippi. When network news anchors lose interviews like this one, they get mean and scary That’s why producers call them anchor monsters whether they just lost an interview or not. They’re scary people even when they’re trying to be nice. But no one was being nice to me that day.

For a moment, I thought I’d be fired. In my defense, I really thought we had it. I grabbed my cell phone.

Message number four was in fact Theresa Boudreaux’s lawyer call­ing at ten last night. What a sleazebag. Just after the Seebright inter­view was in the can, he thought he should tell me that things had changed.

“Jamie, it’s Leon Rosenberg. Thank you again for the flowers on Friday. My wife thought they were beautiful. Uh, we need to discuss some changes in the plan.Theresa Boudreaux has had some concerns. Call me at home tonight.You have all my numbers.”

I dialed Leon at work, fury raging inside. His irritating assistant, Sunny, answered. She never knew where he was, didn’t know how to reach him, but always put me on hold to “see.” I waited two full minutes.

“I’m sorry, Ms.Whitfield. I’m not sure where he is right now, so I can’t connect you. Is there a message?”

“Yes. Could you please write this down verbatim: ‘I heard about Seebright. Fuck you very much. From Jamie Whitfield.”

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to write that down.”

“Mr. Rosenberg won’t be surprised. He’ll think it’s appropriate given the situation. Please pass it along.” I hung up.


The writing is generally weak, and it’s hard to have empathy for any of the characters. Their pain becomes evident, and romance and love become clear enough, but by the end it was hard to care. The Manny is not the successor to Bonfire of the Vanities, but it was better than I expected, and by the end it was actually kind of sweet. It was like being dragged to a chick flick, and coming out of the theater feeling better than when you went in. You shouldn’t go out of way to read The Manny, but on a hot summer’s day, it provided a few hours of entertainment and distraction.


Steve Hopkins, August 25, 2007



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The recommendation rating for this book appeared

 in the September 2007 issue of Executive Times


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