As usual by the author, Arthur Hailey, this book is a combination of perfect research, lots of details and a gripping story on automobile industry. He has not written too many books but whatever he has written can provide you inside out information about a particular industry. “Wheels” as the name suggests does the same for automobile industry specifically dealing with the mass production of cars and how it affects the industry as well as people who live in these cities.
I remember a sub-plot where a dealer is trying sell a car and how he uses his convincing powers, acting, fake calls to his bosses to sell a car. At all times he is trying to show to the buyer that he is their friend but is trying to extract as much as possible from them. How dealers make more money from service, insurance as compared to sales of the car. There is information about how the cost of each part is so important. When a company finds a problem with the test drive of car and has to come up with a solution that will cost few dollars more to cost, they go into hyper-drive as each and every dollar matters to them.
There is an interesting description about how the cars manufactured on Monday and Friday have more probability of having defects as compared to something that is made on middle of the week. One of the more moving story was about a worker who suddenly gets a job in auto industry and then gets trapped into loan sharks. What happens when a poor man is suddenly given a power of credit card. He goes and buys whatever is possible without realizing that he will never be able to pay it back.
There were so many of such interesting sub-plots in the book and all of these open your eyes about some aspect of social situation and industry.
“In High Places” was probably one of the first fictional thrillers on Government functioning that I had read. I had just discovered Arthur Hailey as a good author and this was probably second or third book of Hailey that I had picked up. In later years, I have read many of such books based on US or India. Even though the book is set in Canada, it really gave me a perspective on functioning of democratic government and what kind of things leaders have to face. The book is set in cold war era when Canada is facing a threat of thermonuclear war and its prime minister is trying to find options to protect his country.
The main characters here are prime minister and some of his cabinet colleagues and political rivals. The story revolves around prime minister and how his political and personal life gets mixed up. As part of his negotiation with US, he is trying to have an agreement so that US will have more say in the defense of Canada and whole of North America but his political rivals will term it as giving up sovereignty of the country. I still remember that one point of negotiation was to hand over Alaska to Canada in return.
I could see how difficult it must be for the government to do these negotiations where anything that they do for the country will be termed as sellout of the country by their political rivals. One of the interesting events in the book is still very clear in my mind. Prime minister of Canada is planning to make a speech in parliament and he is continuously observing the press gallery. At certain time when most of the press people are ready to leave for giving feed for prime time news, he gets up and makes his point thus making sure that it will cover all headlines in TV across the country. Simple but effective strategy.
In high places is not Hailey’s best work but I liked it because of the subject.
Before I had read this book, Hotel was just a place to eat and short stay where few people worked. I had never imagined the scale of a large hotel and what all could go on inside it to keep it running. As is the writing style of Arthur Hailey, when he picks up a topic as background for any of his stories, he does a lot of research and makes sure that you will really appreciate that industry after reading his book. This book is just one of a kind of story with hotel as the background of the plot.
The story unfolds during five days of the week in a hotel when it is struggling through a financial crisis and is on a verge of a sellout. There are multiple plots running through the book that involve hotel employees, guests, owners and visitors to the hotel. The book was written in 1960s and has incident of racism as well which was more prevalent in high-end hotel industry at that time. But in the end the crisis gets resolved and even though another owner buys the hotel, the previous owner is retained as chairman and it is a kind of happy ending.
The story is fast paced and plot after plot unfolds and keeps you glued till the end. But for me, the more important parts were small sub-plots that talked about how actually it works inside the hotel. How does morning alarm service works when you have to wake up 1000 guests in a matter of half an hour. How do you take care of your table linen when you know that guests could have written on it with ball point pen and if you wash it directly the stain would remain forever. What happens when guests forget to return their room keys and throw it in a trash can at airports and thereby allow a trained thief to enter into the hotel. Why large conventions are so important for hotel industry. The book was an amazing insight into the areas of hotel that normal public never see.
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This is another gem of a book from Arthur Hailey about Banking and how Banks function. When I read this book, Banks were just boring place for me where you go to put your money or take it out. In his usual style and very well researched book “The Moneychangers” he opened my eyes to functioning of Banks. The story has all the drama and feel of a thriller but at the same time teaches you a lot.
The protagonist of the book is running for the top position at the Bank and has to fight a rival to get there. The story revolves around this fight between two ambitious individuals and takes us into murky politics of power in Banking industry. But the beauty of book for me was not in the main story. There were many sub-plots and details about various functions of Bank which made it more interesting for me. There are two specific things which are still fresh in my mind about this book.
There is a depiction in the story about how a rumour can ruin a Bank if suddenly all the depositors come to the Bank to withdraw the money. The Banking industry works on the basis of taking money from people and then investing it to make more money. If everybody comes to ask their money back at the same time, no Bank would be able to return it and would go bankrupt. Banking works on trust of depositors and if that is lost, Bank is gone. Much later I had read a short story to the similar effect but more about that some other time. In this book, the protagonist saves the Bank by making sure that all the people who turned up to get their money got it, but in reality it will most likely result in bankruptcy.
Another incident is about a teller who is able to keep track of her cash to the last penny while doing all the transactions and how her ability saves her from the accusation of theft.
Overall, a great book. I am able to remember so much even after 20 years. I wish I could remember my text books like that.
If you want to read about a profession or an industry and have fun reading it then Arthur Hailey is your man. He has written few books, but each of them is a detailed account of how a particular industry works. His research is superb and he uses the actual facts about the industry to build a story and he does it wonderfully. Overload is a book about Electricity generation companies in America. The book is a fiction but at the same time it tells you how the Power industry works.
I read this book some twenty years ago, still some things about the book are as fresh in my mind as though I read it last night. I really cannot forget the details that he provides about safety procedures that are used for disabled people in hospitals and for old and disabled people who stay at home and whose life depends on Electricity. The way hero of the book goes out of way to take care of such people during power outage is really touching. Of course, he has fictionalized it and romanticized it.
The book also talks about fight between environment safety and development. People use newer equipments and need more power but at the same time there is huge opposition to creation of newer power plants. The fact of the matter is that newer power plant will create damage to environment but is the damage worth it. If the damage is not worth it then who needs to make sure that we do not need more power. Until and unless, we reduce power consumption as users, the demand will keep on increasing. The solution is not in stopping of development. At the same time damage to environment is also a concern. The questions are very relevant even today specifically in developing countries who are undergoing similar conflicts on development and environment safety. Maybe there are better ways possible, if we can only think in more innovative ways.
He mentions about damage to environment even if a large solar power plant is created. That is something that I have not digested till today. He gave his logic but somehow I felt it was too shallow. Is there somebody out there who can help me on this?