Richard Hine's Blog - Posts Tagged "debut-novel"

Several readers of my novel—including a few of my former Time Inc. colleagues—sent me messages yesterday when the news broke that recently hired Time Inc. CEO Jack Griffin was leaving the company after just five months.

“Life imitating art, Richard… you practically scripted this!” said one commenter.

“Talk about prescient! I'm sure you've seen this,” said another, attaching a link to a New York Times article filled with the behind-the-scenes scoop on what had happened.

Having seen the news already from another source, I didn’t actually read the Times article until another friend told me by phone that reading the Times story “was like reading a scene from my novel.”

Now, I’ve never met Jack Griffin, so I have no comment on the actual news or content of the New York Times article. But I did work at Time Inc. (the publisher of Time, People, Sport Illustrated, Fortune, and many more magazines) for 10 years—and some reflections on the Time Inc culture certainly found their way into my novel Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch.

So just for fun, see if you can guess which of the following lines and quotes came from the New York Times article dated February 17, 2011 and which came from Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch. (Answers below. No cheating.)

1. “(They) like to talk about doing things differently. They yearn to stretch themselves in new directions. But when push comes to shove they snap back into their old habits.”

2. “Entrenched interests fiercely resist the change necessary to position the organization for the future.”

3. “(There was an) influx of new managers, consultants and free-floating strategists, people who seemed to speak a different language.. and who measured success by different metrics.”

4. “He brought in consultants, for example… a move that some employees took as an insult.”

5. “New employees are like organ transplants: if you’re not compatible, the body rejects you.”

6. “His management style was brusque and did not fit the corporate culture.”

7. “Maybe this isn’t the right fit for you and maybe it would be better for all involved if you maybe left to pursue a different career path.”

8. “Although (he) is an extremely accomplished executive, I concluded that his leadership style and approach did not mesh with (our company).”

9. “He was not afraid to fire good people… to send a signal. (He) was confident. He thought big, seized opportunities and brought in new talent.”

10. “(He) made swift and sweeping moves to reorganize… in a manner that did not sit well with company managers or executives.”

11. “They can’t quite combine their desire to create ‘a new paradigm’ with their corporate need to do things ‘a certain way’—i.e. the way they’ve always done those things before.”

12. “His arrival was met with high expectations, but it quickly became evident to many senior managers… (that he) was the wrong choice.”

NOTE: In a couple of cases I changed tenses, but otherwise all examples used were quoted verbatim. The odd numbered examples all came from my novel, the even numbered examples all came from yesterday’s paper.
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Published on February 19, 2011 04:20 • 1,586 views • Tags: business, debut-novel, fiction, humor, media, new-york-city, new-york-times, newspapers, publishing, satire
A recent tweet by @timmcguire alerted me to the fact that he had written a blog post about my novel Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch.

When I clicked on the link, I discovered that Tim McGuire is the Frank Russell Chair for the Business of Journalism at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

I particularly enjoyed the headline he'd written: "'Russell Wiley is Out to Lunch' is a must read for newspaper refugees and corporate survivors"

Reading the article, I discovered he didn't love every single little thing about my book. But that was OK. I savored the best parts: "brilliant... exceptionally up-to-date-hilarious snapshot of the problems facing mainstream media."

One line in particular jumped out at me:

"I felt so strongly about author Richard Hine’s newspaper analysis that I’m using an excerpt in my Business and Future of Journalism class here at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School."

I contacted Tim McGuire on Twitter and we connected via email. And yes, indeed, he's asking students to read a big chunk of Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch to illustrate the challenges facing newspapers in the digital age.

If "Russell Wiley" doesn't help Walter Cronkite students solve all the problems in the old media world, at least, he tells me, it provides "a humorous interlude" as well as a new way to spur classroom discussion.

You can read Tim McGuire's whole blog post here:
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Published on March 01, 2011 15:49 • 3,138 views • Tags: business, debut-novel, education, fiction, humor, journalism, media, new-york-city, newspapers, publishing, satire, social-media, twitter
One of the interesting features that the Kindle offers is the "Popular Highlights" feature that allows readers to see what passages have been highlighted most by others.

Amazon customers (and authors) can see the most frequently highlighted passages on a book's Kindle page on the Amazon site.

There's no way of telling exactly why a passage was highlighted, but the feature does serve to showcase the lines and/or ideas that jump out most to readers as they go through the book.

My own novel Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch looks at the changing world of publishing (a.k.a the Death of Print), the rise of the internet and social media, and is filled with the kind of bad behavior and office politics that are the hallmarks of many a declining business. (Needless to say, it's a comedy.)

Here are the current most Popular Highlights:

"Desperate people don’t make good decisions. Desperate people take others down when they fall."
-- Highlighted by 12 Kindle users

"The consultant’s job is to sit back, chew on a piece of grass, understand the landscape and then paint a rainbow on it. After that, the consultant leaves and the overworked, underpaid employees are sent off in a new direction, searching for a pot of gold they can never find because it doesn’t actually exist.”
-- Highlighted by 9 Kindle users

"She is a woman of extraordinary intelligence, vivacity, insight, experience, loyalty and commitment. Unfortunately for her, the company places absolutely no value on these attributes."
-- Highlighted by 8 Kindle users

"He seems oblivious to the fact that mass media are being replaced by media created by the masses."
-- Highlighted by 7 Kindle users

“Let’s not get too granular,” says Henry. It’s one of those expressions he picked up at last year’s leadership retreat. It’s where he learned that leaders are “Unicorns.” They need to think big picture and articulate a vision for their teams. Unicorns are not supposed to act like Horses. They don’t pull carts or get sucked down into the weeds. They don’t soil themselves with the realities of actual work."
-- Highlighted by 6 Kindle users

"I’ve dug myself into a hole. I assumed my performance would speak for itself. I had faith that management would recognize and reward good work. Then I sat back and watched as other people—aggressive, hard-charging, permanently networking types—charged ahead. I let it happen. Why? Because I was too busy digging my hole to do anything else. I didn’t have time to deal with all the networking. I didn’t realize the subtle difference between being labeled a high performer instead of a high potential."
-- Highlighted by 6 Kindle users

"One of the funny things about my work life is how I spend all day being as nice as humanly possible to people I wouldn’t otherwise choose to socialize with. By the time I get home, my cheerful battery has run down. My kindness settings have been changed. “Pleasant” is no longer my default option."
-- Highlighted by 5 Kindle users

"The Rainbow Painter’s job is simply to keep management’s hope alive, to convince them that the pot of gold exists. Legitimate facts to the contrary will not be admitted into evidence.”
-- Highlighted by 5 Kindle users

"Every time I’ve chosen one door over another, the opportunity to go back and find out what was behind that other door has disappeared. And every door I go through reduces the number of choices I get to make in the future. My life is contracting, not expanding."
-- Highlighted by 5 Kindle users

"I happen to think a newspaper is a convenient, wireless, handheld device. On a good day it might even tell me something I don’t already know."
-- Highlighted by 5 Kindle users

If these snippets give you an urge to find out more, please take a trip to the Amazon product page:

And if you ever have the time or inclination to read Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch on your Kindle, please do highlight your favorite passages. Or, if you read the paperback edition, feel free to share the parts you underlined (or felt like underlining) in the comments section below.
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Published on May 19, 2011 11:19 • 453 views • Tags: business, debut-novel, ebooks, fiction, humor, humour, kindle, media, new-york-city, newspapers, publishing, satire
*** Including songs by Pulp, Elvis Costello, and Belle & Sebastian ***

A radio interviewer recently asked me to put together a musical playlist featuring songs that are mentioned in or somehow related to my novel RUSSELL WILEY IS OUT TO LUNCH.

Given the many musical references in my novel, coming up with a list wasn't difficult. Whittling the list down to nine songs--the limit I'd been given--presented the challenge. I decided to treat it as my personal soundtrack to an imaginary movie version of my book, choosing songs that would allow me to discuss the arc of the novel, touching on plot elements and themes, but without including any major spoilers.

Having picked the songs and assembled some notes and brief excerpts, I thought I'd share my soundtrack here in blog form, which I'll post in three installments:


To set the scene: RUSSELL WILEY IS OUT TO LUNCH is a novel about the personal and professional challenges facing the title character, Russell Wiley. Thing aren’t going well in either area, as the spark has gone out of Russell’s marriage and the optimism is quickly being sucked out of the newspaper industry in which he works. The novel is also based in the real world, it’s set in New York City in 2006 and early 2007. This is the post 9/11 world in which the war in Iraq has morphed to the scandal of Abu-Ghraib. There’s a lot of dissatisfaction about the way the country is being run. And there’s lingering sense of fear and uncertainty in the air.

Despite that, of course, 'RUSSELL WILEY' is intended to be a hilarious comedy.

As the novel begins, Russell is reminiscing on early days of his relationship… and also reflecting on all the troubles in the world. He shares with the reader the fact that his marriage has reached that point that he’s counting the number of days since he’s had sex. He’s currently up to 25, and for him, if that gets to 30 it will indicate a real crisis.

Lying in bed one morning he makes a half-hearted attempt to get his wife Samantha interested. And when that fails, he reflects longingly on the early days of his relationship when, after meeting Sam in London, the couple managed to endure a long-distance relationship back in the States by making sure they got together at least once a month for a physical reunion.

-- p.3: “When we parted, I’d drive home weak but elated, listening to the Pulp album that reminded me of the semester we shared in London.”

TRACK 1: PULP: Do You Remember the First Time?


After giving up on the thought of sex for another morning, Russell heads to the subway. He rides the F-train from Brooklyn each day. And to fly the flag for the paper he works for--The Daily Business Chronicle--he conceals his New York Times inside his employer’s paper.

-- p.5: “The news is all bad. Our future’s in the hands of scoundrels and fanatics. I skim the headlines, searching in vain for signs of hope for subway riders, New York City dwellers, American citizens at home and abroad, the entire God-fearing Christian world, people of all religions, agnostics, atheists, the planet we all must share.”

TRACK 2: ELVIS COSTELLO & THE ATTRACTIONS: (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love and Understanding


Of course, despite the pressing business challenges facing his newspaper, Russell manages to get through his workday without making any progress whatsoever on his most urgent project. Instead, he has to deal with a paranoid boss, anxious peers, and a series of unnecessary interruptions, the most pressing of which seems to be the fact that the new intern in the department is dressing much too provocatively.

-- p.38: "As the executive supposedly managing her, I have already heard a litany of complaints from Barbara and other female colleagues who tell me Angela is:
“Not focused on her work.”
“Spending all day on the phone.”
“Flirting with the mail room guys.”
“Nowhere to be found.”
“Leaving nothing to the imagination.”
So far, none of the men have complained, though I sense an air of melancholy in some cubicles each time Angela—with all her youth and beauty and happiness and potential—passes by."

At the end of the day, Russell finally summons Angela into his office, which leads to:

TRACK 3: BELLE & SEBASTIAN: Step Into My Office, Baby

Thanks for reading. Please leave a comment or click "like." More info about my novel is available at

Look for Part 2 of Russell Wiley's Sing-Along Blog soon.
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*** Including songs by The Futureheads, The Jam, and Sleeper ***

Despite the distractions of scantily clad interns and other attractive coworkers, Russell Wiley is really trying to focus on his corporate future: His career has stalled. He’s being overtaken by younger, more aggressive rivals, including a new consultant who's out to steal all of Russell's best ideas and repackage them as his own.

But before he figures out how to respond, he has to figure out exactly where he went wrong. So he begins to reflect on the ups and downs of his career so far—starting with his first day on the job.

-- p.70: The day I started at my company Henry Moss met me at the elevator.
“Welcome aboard, Russell.” he said. “We're excited to have you on the team.” He walked me to a small interior room, which I thought at first was a supply closet.
“This is not your office,” he said, switching on the overhead light. “But I think you'll find it has everything you need.” He left and closed the door behind him.

Track 4: THE FUTUREHEADS: First Day

Even as he starts trying to appear more promotable, Russell knows there's one more essential factor: simply being kept around long enough to be promoted. Because business is at The Daily Business Chronicle is so bad, there’s a permanent threat of layoffs and firings. And Russell knows that everyone is at risk, especially because his company’s so-called performance management system is so haphazard that it can be used to get rid of anyone for practically any reason.

Before long, he has to deal with the fact that yet another colleague—someone who in his eyes was doing a fine job—has just been let go:

-- p.120: I shouldn’t be surprised, even though I didn’t see it coming. His dismissal is one of those shocking, random things that happen all the time. I’ve gotten used to the ax falling on other people. I try not to get caught up in the sadness or guilt, focusing instead on the dread that such a thing could one day happen to me. This dread is what sustains me.

Track 5: THE JAM: Smithers-Jones

Meanwhile, as things are going from bad to worse at home, Russell decides he should have taken more of an interest in Angela, the young intern in his department whose time at the company is now coming to an end. He takes her out for a mentoring lunch that, for all its supposedly professional intentions, starts playing in his mind as a kind of illicit assignation. But even as Russell feels a pull of temptation, his loyalty to Sam still surfaces.

-- p. 213: “What kind of music do you like?” Angela asks.
I mention a couple of the Britpop bands Sam and I fell in love with when we were in London. Angela pushes out her lower lip and shrugs. I tell her the names of the singers from those bands who went on to solo careers. Some of them are still big in England. When they pass through New York, Sam and I faithfully join the small crowds who gather to see them play.

Track 6: SLEEPER: What Do I Do Now?

*** As a side note: As well as being one of Britpop’s finest lyricists, former Sleeper lead singer Louise Wener is also the author of 4 novels and an autobiography. Check them out, starting with her debut novel Goodnight Steve McQueen:

Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for the third and final installment of Russell Wiley's Sing-Along Blog. For more info about Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch, please visit or your favorite online bookseller.
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*** Including (live) songs by Lloyd Cole, Fountains of Wayne, and The Cure ***

Welcome to the final installment of this three-part musical playlist featuring songs that are mentioned in or somehow related to my novel Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch.

Parts One and Two touched on the personal, professional and global concerns facing the sex-starved, newsprint-stained and easily distracted would-be hero Russell Wiley.

Part Three will hint at how, after disaster ensues, Russell attempts to pick up the pieces and get his personal and professional life back on track. Because Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch is intended as a comedy, these songs are intended to convey, without any too-obvious spoilers, that by the time the novel ends, some sense of optimism has been restored.


We begin with a scene in which Russell is at least embracing the new (circa 2006) technologies that are so transforming life in general and his business in particular:

-- p.265: I disconnect my iPod from my laptop and insert it into the dock of my speakers. I dress myself while Lloyd Cole sings about Young Idealists. I pack all my devices—computer, Blackberry, cellphone—into my messenger bag, then clip my iPod to my belt and plug in my headphones. Lloyd’s no longer angry, no longer young, no longer driven to distraction, not even by Scarlett Johannson. Then I’m riding down the elevator, heading out into the cold gray January morning, listening to a song about New York City Sunshine.

Here is a clip of one of the three songs referenced in that passage (all from Lloyd Cole’s excellent 2006 album ‘Antidepressant’), in a version recorded by me, live at City Winery, NYC, on June 11, 2011:

Track 7: LLOYD COLE: Woman in a Bar (Live)

Toward the end of the novel Russell Wiley and his colleagues at the Daily Business Chronicle finally start trying some new ideas. And some of them actually work. While he hasn’t solved all the challenges facing newspapers in the age of the internet it seems that, for now at least, Russell Wiley’s professional future is looking a little brighter.

-- p.278: I take a stroll through the sales department. Things are quiet, but I can sense the intensity. For the first time in years, our salespeople are getting their calls returned.

Track 8: FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE: Bright Future in Sales (Live)

But what of Russell’s personal challenges? One of the only companions he’s truly relied on throughout the novel is his Lucky Cat, a gift from a Japanese colleague which Russell likes to imagine has magical powers. At then end of the novel he receives a second gift from the same colleague:

-- p. 288: I set the box on the table and lift off the lid. Inside, there’s a plastic Lucky Cat. It’s identical to the black one I have in my office, only this one is pink. I hold it up to the room.
“I noticed you kept your first cat in the office,” says Kiko. “It brought you luck at work. Now you can take one home, too. Pink is to make you lucky in love.”

Track 9: THE CURE: The Lovecats (Live)

Will Russell Wiley’s new Lucky Cat solve all his romantic problems? For that you’ll need to read the book.

Thanks for tuning in to Russell Wiley's Sing-Along Blog. For more info about Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch, please visit or your favorite online bookseller.
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Here's a programming alert for anyone who enjoys great British music.

I'll be the guest on Scott Einhorn's "Best of the UK" radio show on WPRB-Princeton 103.3 FM this Thursday night, August 4, 2011, from 9-11 pm ET discussing music, writing, and the soundtrack inspired by my media industry satire "Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch."

Featured artists will include The Jam, Elvis Costello & The Attractions, Pulp, Sleeper, The Futureheads, Belle & Sebastian, Lloyd Cole, and more.

We'll also be giving away free copies of my novel to several lucky listeners.

Wherever you are at 9pm ET on Thursday August 4, you can listen in at:

I hope you'll join us.
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This is not a blog entry, more of a price alert: The Kindle edition of Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch is now on sale for just £1.99 in the UK -- 78% off the list price.

The novel currently has 28 reviews on Amazon UK, averaging 4 stars. In the words of one top Amazon UK reviewer: "it could be another in an already fairly crowded range of Nick Hornby-style novels about middle-aged men and their mid-life crises. However it's worth checking out, because whilst that is in fact what the book is about, it's a very good example of the kind."

If you do check it out, please let me know what you think.
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Published on September 20, 2011 07:58 • 186 views • Tags: advertising, debut-novel, fiction, humour, journalism, kindle, kindle-books, lad-lit, media, new-york-city, newspapers, satire, social-media, the-office, uk
I was asked recently by Brand Republic, a UK media & marketing website, to write something that would help its readers navigate the changing world of traditional media. Because that site is for subscribers only, I'm going to share what I wrote below. Comments are always welcome.


How to Survive the Death of Print: A handy guide for newspaper and magazine people

By Richard Hine

Just so we’re clear: I’m here to help. Not to argue.

I know that as a newspaper or magazine employee you’re extremely capable of making a compelling case that: “print still has a place in people’s lives.” Maybe it does. But so does poetry. And badminton. And frankly we don’t have much time. So let’s move on.

Today I’m going to outline 10 simple steps that will show you exactly How to Survive the Death of Print. For your own sake, I hope you pay close attention.

Step 1. Stop being so defensive.

I have to point out that I’m still feeling a lot of resistance from you. I can feel you itching to tell me that nothing beats the feel a beautiful, glossy magazine in your pudgy, damp hands. Or the serendipity of coming across that one vitally important nugget of information you know is buried somewhere in your stack of unread papers. Take a deep breath. Hold it. Now let it go.

Step 2. Put as many of these words as you can into a single sentence.

App. Tablet. Paywall. SEO optimisation. Monetisation. Customisation. Particle acceleration. Mobile. Geo-targeted. Click-through rate. Finish your sentence with this phrase: “but at the end of the day it’s all about the content, and that’s what’s going to set us apart.”

Step 3. Find out from FourSquare or Facebook Places where your company’s “digital guru” is at this moment.

Find her. Show her the sentence you just wrote. Ask her if it makes sense purely on technical terms. Then beg her to rewrite it into something a normal human being might understand.

Step 4. Memorize your revised sentence.

Use it in every meeting you attend and email you write for the next six months.

Step 5. Ignore that new piece of “good news” about print.

You may be tempted to trumpet some not-bad new statistic, like: “Newspaper ad revenues are declining slightly more slowly in the 3rd quarter.” Or: “In Norway, circulation in the women’s category fell only 0.7% last year.” Don’t fall into that trap. Remember step 1.

Step 6. Make your boss a key ally in your success.

The real world of print media is nothing like The Devil Wears Prada. Unless you’re working for Anna Wintour, your real boss will be nothing like Meryl Streep or the Miranda Priestly character. She will be sweet, charming and well-mannered, with only occasional freakouts. Ignore the freakouts. Just remember your boss is completely terrified of being usurped by a 25-year-old with the interpersonal skills of Mark Zuckerberg. Your challenge is to convince her you’re her loyal ally, and also that you “know digital” in a non-intimidating way. Every time Facebook decides on a new definition of “privacy” for 800 million people, make sure to volunteer to update your boss’s account settings. Note: You will also need to explain to her exactly what hashtags are at least once a month.

Step 7. Add the words “… and social media strategist” to your job title on your CV and include them in your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles.

Do this whether you’re a journalist, work in ad sales or circulation, or at the printing plant. But do this especially if you’re a higher paid executive who’s “at risk” the next time the company decides to “re-rationalise the cumbersome complexity” of its recently re-organised corporate structure.

Step 8. Cultivate a mentor.

Why do you need a mentor when you get on so well with your terrific boss? Because your boss will be fired within the next 6-12 months, that’s why. Seriously, are you not paying attention to what’s going on around you? Note: Your mentor should be somebody senior who has jokingly expressed jealousy of the way your boss has set up her Facebook privacy settings.

Step 9. Get up early each morning and read a quality newspaper.

This will make you better informed than any of your peers, but when they ask you how you know so much, point to your Blackberry, Android or iPad and say you get all your news whilst “on the go.” Reading a good newspaper will also help you identify other industries that might make sense for a smart, resourceful person like you when this whole thing goes pear-shaped.

Step 10. Focus on the big picture.

That great print brand you love so much, that gives you a reason to get up in the morning, is doomed. It’s sad. At times, you may be tempted to start drinking too much and gorging on greasy foods. Work out instead. You’ll want to look good and have a well-oxygenated brain if you plan on competing with all those whipsmart technogeeks in the world of “branded multi-platform digital content distribution.” And if that’s not your goal, working out now will help even more later. Truth is, your quirky sense of humour will only take you so far when you’re trying to find a new entry level position in whatever dynamic, growth-oriented industry you try to get into next. And trust me, after you lose that last 15 lbs and get a new haircut, you really will look and feel so much better.
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Published on October 17, 2011 08:44 • 714 views • Tags: advice, books, career-advice, debut-novel, ebooks, how-to, humor, humour, ipad, magazines, newspapers, novel, print, publishing, satire, social-media, the-office
Here's a programming alert for anyone who enjoys great British music.

I'll be the guest on Scott Einhorn's "Best of the UK" radio show on WPRB-Princeton 103.3 FM this Thursday night, December 1, 2011, from 9-11 pm ET discussing music, writing, and the soundtrack inspired by my media industry satire "Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch."

Featured artists will include The Jam, Elvis Costello & The Attractions, The Cure, Pulp, Sleeper, The Futureheads, Belle & Sebastian, Lloyd Cole, and more.

Listen on the radio all the way from the outskirts of New York, NY through Philadelphia, PA and into Wilmington, DE.

Listen online from wherever you may be starting 9pm ET on December 1 at:

I hope you'll join us.
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