I first encountered Bristol author A A Abbott (aka Helen Blenkinsop) when we were both invited to be part of a local author event by the Bristol branch of Foyles.
I started getting to know her in a pre-event meeting that we set up with the other two taking part, Lucienne Boyce and David Penny (whose books are also reviewed on my book blog here).
When I saw her in action at the Foyles event, I was impressed by her enthusiasm and passion for her writing – and also by her marketing nous in choosing a pen-name on what I call the Aardvark principle – i.e. to get her name featured high up on any alphabetical list of authors!
Inspired by the Day Job
A A Abbott lives a double life, as a tax expert working half the year for big name companies, and the other half writing fiction. Having spent a large chunk of my own career providing public relations services to large organisations, often reporting in at board level, I could see that her business background would provide heaps of inspiration and ideas for her preferred genre, the thriller.
I don’t know whether she has ever worked in the tobacco industry, but Up in Smoke is a convincing, pacy and energetic thriller in that setting. It does for the cigarette business what the TV series Dallas did for the oil industry: exposes its cut-throat and ruthless nature against the backdrop of a breathtakingly extravagant lifestyle.
Viewed from Both Sides of the Tobacco Business
It’s a fast romp with a huge cast, and as such can’t delve into huge character development, but that’s fine – there’s enough here to differentiate the characters and explain their motivations, without slowing the pace. Also, the author cleverly avoids heaping all the blame on the tobacco execs – the morals ad ethics of some of the characters in her anti-tobacco lobby are at times equally dubious!
While tobacco is an obvious “villain” to portray, I’m sure there are lots of other industries which operate in similar ways, and I’ll be interested to see where her other books take the reader. This one certainly made me glad I no longer work in the business world!
In summary, Up in Smoke is a fun read that’s both escapist and thought-provoking, great for on the beach or to convince any office worker that they haven’t had such a bad day after all!
For more information about A A Abbott’s writing, visit her website: http://www.aaabbott.co.uk.