The Club

Digital Book Club

Richard Eyre (Penguin, 2005)

December 2005

The Club

This month's edition of DSC's Book Club features the debut novel from media pluralist Richard Eyre. In a change from the usual marketing texts we enjoy a classic whodunit, but one with a few business lessons along the way.

There's adrenalin rushing through the corridors of Acrobat television, and it's even stronger in the boardroom than under the hot lights down on the live studio floor. Eyre takes us inside the doors of a youth channel that's broken the mould, but not the markets. Punchy programming, naked ambition, hungry for acquisition; now under attack.

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At its head, a struggling chief with eyes justifiably darting over both shoulders; beneath, a management team in chaos. Rival networks, rival investors, rival press briefings, rival heirs to the throne. It's caffeine-fuelled crisis management over one gruelling month at Acrobat that will change the future of the business and its people for ever. The stock bounces in cycles from the jubilation of new programme launches to the despair of a slaughtering in the press. That naked ambition drives deceit, deviousness and defections. Advertising millions tumble faster than the share price, and the agility of its leader is falling short. And who's really pulling the strings? It's a game of trust, yet who even knows all the players? In the shadows hides more than even the pretenders to the throne suspect.

This debut novel comes from a real insider, a media pluralist whose portfolio of non-execs straddles print, television and online, and whose history also includes running ad agencies, radio stations and TV networks. He's stuck to home turf and the backdrop for the cast to play out their lives is rich in the detail of London's media life; probably rich enough for more than a few to see themselves. Eyre jokes about "trading corporate life for a typewriter in the shed" but he's taken his corporate characters with him on the journey.

Yet The Club is more than a whodunit. Eyre has crafted a fable for those in an industry he knows so well. The price of success is a debris field: reputations and marriages are shattered, health spent, lives wasted. The messages are not even thinly veiled: "Welcome to The Club Ladies and Gentleman" members can expect to earn more, be more famous, get tables in all the right restaurants; so come with us, run with us on our journey to this wondrous place."
When we meet to discuss the book in the open-air café of the Embankment Park, just south of the city's media district, I can't help but appreciate how much Eyre has taken his own advice.

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