by Tom McCrory
Published by Writers Club Press
347 pages, 2000
Buy it online
Reviewed by Janice A. Farringer
Company Confidential, a first novel, exhibits both inexperience and raw writing talent, with potential shining through. The book recently won The Southern Writers Guild 2000 Gold Medal for Best Mystery/Thriller. The author, Tom McCrory, is definitely one to watch.
Company Confidential takes the reader straight through the gates of corporate hell. In the world of Campbell Industries that Tom McCrory creates, no one exhibits the slightest moral fortitude and no one bucks the irredeemably sociopathic boss, Glenn Stevens. He flaunts his sexual depravity openly, even publicly. He manipulates his spineless employees with compensation amounting to extortion, then threatens to take it away. In the world of this novel, women strut like unforgiven Mary Magdalenes or bleed snow like the Virgin Mary. The company salesmen, the guys, watch with titillation, and wait for the next fat paycheck. If ever an author set out to explore evil in the workplace, Tom McCrory has done it in spades.
Most people would believe that such a workplace environment disappeared years ago in the face of sexual harassment laws and large monetary verdicts against corporate predators. The fact that Glenn Stevens is evil personified and unfettered is only a slight hurdle for this book. The setting, after all, is California, and who knows, there may be fiefdoms there ignored by headquarters for the sake of the bottom line. For a fair-minded reader, loathing -- no, rage -- grabs you in the first few pages of this novel and sweeps you forward regardless. McCrory sets up his readers to hope that someone will rescue these people from their own lack of sense. What in the world are they waiting for? Why don't they act? The next paycheck, that's what. Think about that. What would you do or not do for your secure paycheck? No one files a complaint, no one calls a lawyer. It is that teeth-jarring emotional ride that makes this thriller worth a read. It is plainly a good story.
It is difficult to understand how an entire company could succumb to sexual, verbal and physical harassment and keep quiet. The police are no help. The L.A.P.D. comes off as badly here as it has in recent headline news. Inexcusable, illegal treatment of employees and finally murder do not prompt an outcry. The novel's main suspense is in watching how long this can go on.
A more loathsome villain than Glenn Stevens would be difficult to imagine. Scott Murphy, the rookie salesman from Memphis, is the designated good guy, but he comes off fairly flat and unappealing. When introduced to Campbell Industries' depravity, he adjusts and rationalizes. The lovely Lisa LeDoux, a strong, educated, but too trusting HR manager, who claims Scott's heart and becomes another victim, is equally one-dimensional. Somewhat believable in her corporate role, LeDoux is less believable as a modern woman in her aggressive virginal pursuit of Scott.
The complex Langston T. Beachum, an ex-Army Ranger, is the single character worthy of a repeat performance. He makes rational decisions and acts decisively, with a vengeance. He is an action type hero we see all too little of in this thriller, yet the outcome hinges on his willingness to put aside his quiet life and get involved.
Author McCrory obviously has the talent to sculpt a good story. Company Confidential is a page-turner. His descriptions of the tourist spots in Memphis and New Orleans are wonderful and add to the story. If McCrory can focus his considerable writing talent on multidimensional characters such as Beachum, his future work should prove to be even more enjoyable than Company Confidential. | January 2001
Janice A. Farringer is a writer and creative writing teacher living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.