11th November 2021

Welcome to Miller Shanks.

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Creode Recommends: e. by Matt Beaumont

Matt Beaumont is a seasoned adman who was sacked from his last job in the industry after emailing a death threat to a senior account director. So he did what every copywriter secretly pines to do, and wrote a novel. 

And an unforgettable first novel at that, consisting entirely of staff emails, a concept so brilliantly simple that you wonder why no-one had thought of it before.  

The idea of an email novel could have been a disaster, but instead is a comic triumph thanks to Matt Beaumont. 

e. spends a fortnight in the company of Miller Shanks, an advertising agency that scales dizzying peaks of incompetence.

Miller Shanks: Meet the team

  • a CEO with an MBA from the Joseph Stalin school of management
  • a director who is a genius, if only in his own head
  • creatives with remarkable brains, if only in their trousers
  • a copywriter with one thing nobody should ever let show – a conscience
  • secretaries who drip honey and spit cyanide
  • the sad git in accounts

The novel is a tapestry of insincerity, backstabbing and bare-faced bitchiness. Oh yes, and there is some work to be done too – the quest for the jewel in the industry’s crown, the billion-pound Coca-Cola account.

The beleaguered employees of Miller Shanks may appear to be concerned with pitching for the Coca-Cola account but their real problem is watching their own backs: the knives are out and everyone from head honcho downwards is well aware that their careers are on the line. 

No one character is allowed to assume centre stage; yet it is impossible not to find yourself riveted by Nigel, David, James, Harriet, Daniel and all the rest of Beaumont’s characters as they strive to achieve a common goal and avoid sinking deeper and deeper in the waste matter. 

At first, it seemed that it was a book all about its gimmick, but it didn’t take long for something far more substantive to shine through, with outstanding characters and many blisteringly funny moments within its covers.

A brilliantly plotted comic novel about life in an advertising agency, narrated entirely through office emails.

Sunday Times Review of the Year

For anyone who has or currently works in an office, you will recognise; managers taking the credit for your work, managers getting upset when things go wrong, clients taking their business elsewhere, secretaries trying to kill each other and that weirdo in accounts who sends global emails offering. 

Nigel Godley – 3/1/00, 10:54am

to… All Departments

cc…

re… room to let

Room to let in cosy central Balham Flat

  • Near shops, buses and Jet filling station
  • Hygena kitchen w/ ceramic hob
  • Neighborhood Watch area
  • Non-smoker preferred
  • Must like cats
  • And gerbils
  • £390 PCM
  • First to see will move in!

Call x4667 – Nige.

What to expect…

It’s the dawn of the new millennium and the London advertising agency of Miller Shanks is about to embark on two weeks of intensive effort with the goal of winning the billion-pound Coca-Cola account. 

Meanwhile, a team has been dispatched to Mauritius on a location shoot for LOVE Adult Channel, where they run afoul of Ivana Trump, and a technological glitch has been rerouting all of the CEO’s communications to the Helsinki office, so the Finns have cheerfully blundered their way into the Coke campaign with an ABBA-esque pitch. 

The characters are as predictable as you’d hope: 

The non-creative Creative Director, Simon Horne, who steals the ideas of students and tries to pass it as his own. 

The secretary who gets jealous of a promotion and forces the circumstances to make her leave and wins the promotion herself to become the PA to the boss from hell.

The technically inept CEO, David Crutton (who loves firing people).

The office “lads”, Brett, Liam and Vince, who have no morals, no secrets and no shame. 

And most notoriously, Nigel, the equally loveable and detestable accounts geek who persists on sending emails to the entire Miller Shanks organisation (see above).

As such there is no plot, no main characters, no protagonists, no story and still the book is eminently readable and to be enjoyed. 

In this book everything is a subplot, there is no continuity, the plot changes track on almost every page. (Just like a real-world Advertising Agency). The emails are very short, which means we’re dashing from one mishap to another very quickly. 

You’ll recognise the language that colleagues use to each other and overuse of exclamation marks!!!!!

You will require some illusion of disbelief to fully enjoy this book, while I can believe that all of these incidents may have happened at some point in Beaumont’s advertising career, they couldn’t possibly have occurred in such a short space of time. 

I’m such a big fan of this book, I have actually bought it twice, replacing my original copy after I lent it to someone who never returned it (for good reason). 

Even now, several years and many reads later, I wouldn’t begrudge buying it again, as this is a book that becomes incredibly good value for the amusement it provides to any fan of slightly juvenile humour.

And I promise my fondness of this book only has a little to do with my sharing the same name as the author.