Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wednesday's Special Is...The Agency!

THE AGENCY by Ally O'Brien

Ally O’Brien is the pseudonym for a writing duo that includes an international bestselling author of suspense novels and a successful, well-known international entertainment agent based in London.

Visit Ally O' Brien here

Or, if you want to know the secret identity of Ally O'Brien, click here.

Buy THE AGENCY from Amazon

Once in a while, we like to mix things up at the grill. For today's special, readers are treated to an extra helping. We'll be posting the entire first chapter rather than an excerpt. This is one lucky week for all of us!!

Read the following from THE AGENCY, then answer the question that follows for a chance to win a free copy!


Chapter One

My life.

Eight thirty-seven in the morning, en route from Putney Heath to Piccadilly, first crisis of the day. People push the crisis button in my business like a lab rat pushes a lever to get pellets of food, but this is a big one. Lowell Bardwright was just found hanged by his Hermès tie, with his fingers clenched in a death grip around his dick.

Lowell is my boss. Well, not anymore.

“Was it erotic asphyxia?” I asked my assistant.

“Erotic what?”

“Was this some kind of sex game?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Emma replied. “I assumed it was suicide.”

Not bloody likely.“No, I’m sure it was an accident,” I said.

When you are the managing partner in a successful entertainment agency, you don’t kill yourself. Lowell made millions of pounds on the ability of people like me to attract scribblers, footballers, Soho chefs, and other celebs who can be hocked to the public on grocery store bookstands or on the eight million channels of satellite TV. He had a flat on the Thames and a weekend home outside Cambridge. God was going to have to come down and wrestle Lowell personally into the afterlife.

“Was he alone?” I asked.

“I guess he was.”

“Don’t be so sure. If I know Lowell, he found himself a Julia Roberts look-alike who freaked when he stopped breathing.”

“What’s erotic asphyxia?” Emma asked, with an unhealthy curiosity.

Emma is twenty-five, and what she lacks in her face she makes up for in the size of her breasts and the tightness of her drainpipe jeans. I remember what it was like at that age, when your sex drive revs like a Ferrari. Hell, I’m still like that, although I’ve downshifted a little in my mid thirties. Emma is into girls, however, and I play for the traditional team.

“Some people say that the sensation of orgasm is heightened by lack of oxygen,” I told her. “So they try cutting off their air as they get close to coming. Unfortunately, a lot of them wind up like Lowell, so don’t try this at home, Emmy. I know you.”

“Hmm,” she said.

You want to watch every head snap around on the 14 bus? Say the word ‘orgasm’ on the phone.

“What does this mean for the agency?” Emma added.

Good question. Every entertainment agency boasts of having the most influence and the best connections, and they’re quick as hyenas to pounce on any sign of weakness at a competitor. Right now, the phone lines of London are buzzing. Did you hear about Lowell? My God, what a shock. Of course, without him, they don’t have anyone who can reach the senior producers at the Beeb. Oh, it’s true, and he was their top man for Fleet Street, too. This may be the time to think about switching your representation, my dear.

Meanwhile, inside the Bardwright Agency, where I work, they’re busy soft-selling Lowell’s importance. He was beloved, darling, but he was a figurehead. Hadn’t closed a big deal in years. Never missed an industry party. A “mentor” to every 24-year-old girl in the agency, that scoundrel, ha ha. No, we’ll miss him, but don’t worry, nothing will really change without him around.

But that’s not exactly true.

There will be one big change, and it affects me more than anyone.

“Cosima will be in charge now,” I told Emma.

“Oh, Lord.”

In my head, I heard a blast of organ music. You know, like in silent films, when the mustachioed villain in a black cape abducts the blonde virgin. Not that you’ll find many virgins in this business.

“I hope the police checked for Dior coral lipstick around Lowell’s mushroom,” I said. “Cosima has been looking to send Lowell to an early grave for years. Maybe she was there to help him along.”

“You are so bad.”

I did feel a little bad, only because I wasn’t crying over Lowell’s death. I worked down the hall from him for ten years, after he hired me out of the books side of the biz. Me, I thought the agents made the money, which was what I needed back then. No one told me that the partners who own the agency make the money, and the rest of us divide up the crumbs that fall from their smacking lips onto the floor. Lowell and I had our run ins over the years, but he was a decent guy. Big, loud, with tobacco breath and roving hands. Fifty-five years old, a lifer in the biz, who remembered a time when bookstores sold more than the fucking Da Vinci Code and films didn’t rise or fall on the box office receipts from the opening weekend. He never pushed me to drop clients who had potential, even if their sales were under-performing. He indulged my fading ideals that it really meant something to find the next Mailer or Capote. On the other hand, I saw the numbers on the royalty statements from my clients, and then the numbers on my agency paycheck, and never the twain did meet.

However, Cosima Tate makes Lowell look like Sir Gawain gallantly taking on the Green Knight. I admit I have my own reasons for loathing Cosima, but I’m not alone in feeling that way at the agency. She is our wicked witch. The kind of witch who would have bitch-slapped Dorothy and served up Toto sausages to the flying monkeys.

“What does this mean for us?” Emma asked, which was the obvious question. I like that Emma says “us” when she talks about her and me. She is as loyal an assistant as you can find. Organizing my life is not my skill set, and without Emma, I would probably starve because I would never know when, where, or with whom I was having a single meal.

“We’ll be fine, don’t worry.”

“Yes, but Cosima hates you,” Emma whispered.

True enough, but I am bulletproof.“We have Dorothy, darling, remember?”

“Oh, well, that’s true.”

Dorothy Starkwell, an American eccentric from the Tribeca area of Manhattan, writes little books about talking pandas that have become the biggest thing in children’s fiction since Pooh set foot in the Enchanted Forest. She is my client. She is my gravy train. As long as I write eight-figure deals for her – and the latest deal is in the offing – no one will touch me.

And at that moment, I had my big idea.

Later, if I knew the pain that idea would cause me in the next few days, I wonder if I would have handled things differently. Perhaps I should have been more paranoid and realized that people really were after me. Or I should have known how resourceful and vengeful Cosima could be. However, when you are thirty-six, you never think about being forced to start your life over, and the truth is, it is every bit as hard as anyone will tell you. Still, sometimes you have to wipe the slate clean and find out if you are truly the person you always imagined yourself to be. “Do I still have lunch with Guy on Friday?” I asked Emma.


Guy Droste-Chambers is Dorothy’s editor. The man who makes the deals. He is a sleazy bastard, but Dorothy is infatuated with his wordsmithing. Or perhaps he reminds her of her panda hero, Butterball, with his porky belly and soup dripping down his chin. Regardless, Dorothy will not hear of switching editors or publishers, despite my advice that she could do better elsewhere.

“Take the lunch out of my calendar, will you?” I said.

“You mean cancel it?”

“God, no, keep the appointment, but delete it from the agency calendar right away, okay? Don’t mention this to anyone. Just remember to remind me about lunch on Friday.”


Emma knew better than to ask me why. The truth is, I wasn’t entirely sure myself. All I knew was that I didn’t want Cosima to find out that Guy and I were close to inking a new contract for Dorothy that would gross around ten million pounds in advance monies. In agency terms, that’s one-and-a-half million to us. Not that I would see any of that myself.

Which brings me back to that big idea of mine.

I’m thinking of going out on my own. Launching my own agency.

What should this new agency be called? Be fun. Be creative!



Chris Eldin said...

Good Morning Everyone!!

I'm next to a computer, so I thought I'd post this a bit early!

Enjoy the chapter!!

Lyncee said...

I loved the chapter! My suggestion ~ The Answer (because it's a multi talent so whatever the the talent they can handle it. Trained Frogs, yup...Juggle Chainsaws, yup...Dance the macarena with an egg on your forehead, yup we're the agency for you)

Anyway, I'd love a copy of the book, great 1st chapter Ally

Brian Freeman (Ally O'Brien!) said...

Hey everybody,

No need to adjust the settings on your monitor...I'm Ally O'Brien. Well, half of her, anyway. The gender-challenged half.

Ally is me (Brian Freeman) and my London agent, Ali Gunn. We had this idea of doing a fun send-up of the publishing industry, sort of Sex and the City meets The Devil Wears Prada. And voila -- THE AGENCY.

This isn't my usual gig. Normally, I write psychological suspense novels under my real identity (see My fourth book IN THE DARK arrives on March 31, and my suspense novels have been translated into 17 languages.

But writing THE AGENCY was a hoot. If you don't laugh out loud, I'll give you your money back. Ha, see, I just laughed out loud right there! ;-)

Anyway, I'll check back in throughout the day. Feel free to post your questions! And don't forget to name Tess's agency...

Chris Eldin said...

This sounds like a really fun read!!!
Anything based on your agent?
We won't tell.

Brian/"Ally" said...

Well, let's say that Tess and Ali are not entirely dissimilar...a scary thought! And some of the names have been changed to protect the guilty...

Anonymous said...

PJ O'Brien here (I know, I know, I need to set up a blogger)
What a hoot of a chapter. Made my morning start with a giggle (I'm on the West Coast of US). The chapter really pulls you along, dropping in zingers at the right place.
My name for Tess' agency: Pandamonium (after all, she's counting on those bears)
Cheers, Pat

laughingwolf said...

welcome ally/brian... love that chapter, chris... got me wanting more

agency name: dickout services for me, especially where orgasms on buses are concerned ;) lol

Brian/"Ally" said...

We definitely want to start the book with a bang, as it were. And a giggle. I remember when my first suspense novel, IMMORAL, came out, a reader wrote to thank me for starting my book on page 1, not on page 13 like so many novels. I've tried to remember that advice with each new book!

Anonymous said...

PJ here again.
That's good advice Brian about where to start a book. I think a lot of writers start with backstory as they sort out what is going to happen. But it's important later in rewrite to discover where the story action takes off. Well, maybe there are some writers who have stories flow perfectly from the get-go, but it ain't me, babe.
You hit it right with this one.
Thanks for taking the time to chat. Pat

bridget3420 said...

I want to read this book soooo bad:)

Chris Eldin said...

Thanks everyone for dropping by!
For those of you still in recovery from yesterday, don't be shy...we're a friendly group!!!


Brian/"Ally" said...

Hey, I really think you'll like it, Bridget.

Pat, you're right -- a lot of writers think through the story but don't spend enough time on how to tell it.

Anonymous said...

PJ again.
Brian, I just went to your website and read the excerpt for "In the Dark." WOW. Talk about a stunner of an opening chapter! You got me hooked by the mystery, the character development, the telling detail. Bravo. I must read more. Pat

Brian/"Ally" said...

Thanks so much, Pat. Yes, Publishers Weekly gave IN THE DARK a starred review, calling it "harrowing and heartrending." Gotta love that.

Anyone who wants to stay in touch, by the way, can find me on Facebook, either by searching for Brian Freeman Author or clicking on the Facebook link on my web site at

Shona Snowden said...

Brian/Ally - that's quite the multiple identity! I can see why you needed another name for this one - and your own industry insider.

I'm ineligible, as a Roast Master, but I'll suggest: 'Turncoats' for the agency name...

Brian/"Ally" said...

Yes, it sometimes leaves me with multiple personality syndrome. I was writing THE AGENCY and IN THE DARK week by week for a while -- but then I had to quit and finish one, then the other!

Anonymous said...

PJ back again.
Whoa. I'm trying to wrap my brain around you switching weekly from cop detective to sassy industry-insider voice. Could give you whiplash. On the other hand, maybe there was a refreshing quality to writing two such different books at the same time. I was impressed before. Now I'm awed. Think I'll go in search of chocolate or maybe gin. Cheers.

Jackie B. said...

Okay, this sounds like quite an awesome read so I am gonna try to be creative and come up with a name for the agency...
What about "That's Entertainment Agency" or "Star Gazers" or "A Touch of Class"? Not real creative but I still hope I win acopy of this book!(Keeping my fingers crossed)

Chris Eldin said...

Hi Everyone!!

Thanks for visiting!!! The contest is now closed, and Brian will announce a winner of a free copy of his book at any time.

Special thanks to Brian for spending time with us at the Grill!!! His books (both genres!!) sound absolutely awesome!!!!


Brian/"Ally" said...

It was my pleasure, everybody! Great chatting with you. As I mentioned, find me on Facebook, or join the mailing list at I write back to every reader, so let me know how you enjoy my books.

As for the contest, I'm going with PJ O'Brien's "Pandamonium." First, how can I resist the name O'Brien? And second, check out the photo of my living room at:

And you'll see why!

Take care and happy reading!


Anonymous said...

OMG! I'm giddy. Thanks, Brian. I can't wait to read the book, and I sure did enjoy the chat.
Now, since I've been posting anonymously, how will y'all find me? I guess I will email Chris and give her my email. I'm going to open a blog account now that I found your site. Yesterday was my first day and it's been so much fun and so illuminating. Thanks again.

laughingwolf said...

grats pj... and thx brian :)