Shepherd Mead


The Admen: A Novel


This is a novel about the men and women who work in the advertising business—not mythical creatures in a world of sincere neckties and gaudy jargon, but ambitious and nervy people who have elected to work in an industry where the pressure is terrific, where the risks and rewards are uncommonly high. Here is how they move to the top, how they stay there, and how sometimes, they don't stay there.

Branch Torrey, the head of the agency, is a big, decent, unsubtle man whose advertising ideas are plain and obvious, what the trade calls "buckeye": the hard sell, the large claim, the headline in heavy black type, with an exclamation point. Through a combination of simple shrewdness and bulldozer drive, he has pushed his agency to the top.

Against a bitingly authentic background of agency-client meetings, "wild blue yonder" sessions, and agency hierarchy, Shepherd Mead tells the story of Branch Torrey and the people whose lives he dominates—Sherwood Ernst, the executive in a perpetual, low-pressure dread of losing his job; Finn Fraser, the copywriter who has been with six agencies in seven years (his ambition now is merely to hang on and not slip back into alcoholism); Grace Darrow, the soap-and-foods copy expert, a sweet and good-natured woman beneath whose impulse to comfort unhappy men is a shy bubble of biology; Jim Wetsel, former almost-All-American tackle, serious-minded and uncomplicated (he is expected to go far in the business); and Chip Sterling, part genius, part man-about-town, the antithesis of Branch Torrey—Sterling hopes to be as successful in his bid for power as he has been in his pursuit of Torrey's wife.

The author of this novel knows the advertising world, its people, and its climate of crisis. In The Admen, he gives us an exciting view of that world—and, in Branch Torrey, a superb portrait of the powerful businessman whose employees have a measure of hostility for The Boss, but rely on him, when the storm signals are out, to keep everybody afloat.

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The Admen
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