“Don’t Tell The Governor” by Ravi Subramanian

I have read a few of Ravi Subramanian’s books and have quite liked them. I was therefore eagerly waiting to read  his financial thriller, “Don’t Tell The Governor”, published by HarperCollins in November 2018. I must confess I was totally disappointed. The story was like one developed by a re-hash of the newspaper headlines in India over the last couple of years. The characters were strikingly similar to real life people only too well known to be named. The reader is left wondering whether her guesses were right in assuming who they were. Some had corny names like, if I remember correctly,  Runvijay Malya, and Mehul Modi which left little for the reader’s imagination to identify them.

The character of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India was, in my view, quite shallow. He must have been an absolute idiot to do all that he did. The story of the glamorous couple of Vicky Malhotra and Pallavi Soni was more true to life. The characters in the IPL match fixing, once again, left little to the imagination of the reader. Using names very close to real life characters, I feel, does injustice to them. The reader who knows their real life exploits/issues/scandals through a barrage of media coverage tends to imagine them do the same in the author’s story.

The plot had real life incidents like the hijack of IC 814 to Kandahar, the dramatic demonetization announcement on November 8, 2016 and many other real life incidents thrown in to create a jumble built on a base of banking and finance. Overall, it failed to grab my interest and left me very disappointed as a reader.

“The Writer’s Digest Handbook of Short Story Writing Volume II” : Ed. Jean M. Fredette

All of us who love writing, and reading of course, can do with periodic reminders on how to hone our writing skills. That there is no end to learning is well known. In this context, I was happy to recently read, ” The Writer’s Digest Handbook of Short Story Writing: Volume II“, edited by Jean M. Fredette. 

This collection of articles on short story writing was published by the well-known Writers Digest Books in 1991. I came across this book in our Club library. It is striking that all the points made still remain relevant though nearly three decades have gone by since the book was first published. It is edited by Jean M. Fredette , who was an Acquisitions Editor of Writer’s Digest and has edited several of their books.

The only thing that has changed has been the process of submitting a manuscript. While the principles remain pretty much the same, much of the process has got simplified thanks to the progress in technology. We can now submit manuscripts over the internet, no longer being bound to print and send the manuscript in physical form in many cases. However, do check the submission guidelines mentioned by the publisher.

Seven chapters encompass a wealth of material in this book, covering sections such as, ” Getting Started”, ” Craft and Technique”, and ” Marketing The Short Story”. Each of the chapters have contributions from distinguished authors who have generously shared their experience and expertise. Principal amongst them are Adela Rogers St. John, Lawrence Block, and John Updike.

From very basic points which we sometimes overlook ( like repeating words/phrases so often that they jar) to more sophisticated aspects like Sentence Structure, Transitions, and Dialogue, this book has tips for the novice and the experienced writer alike.

Reading this book reinforced in me why writing is really a craft. The material in this volume really applies for any kind of writing . It is not restricted to short story writing as the title implies.

“Bill Marriott” by Dale Van Atta

I was delighted to read a pre-release copy of the well-known journalist Dale Van Atta’s book on J. Willard Marriott, Jr titled, “Bill Marriott: Success Is Never Final” thanks to NetGalley. #BillMarriottSuccessIsNeverFinal. This is being published by Shadow Mountain Publishing and is scheduled to be released in September 2019. You can pre-order it on Amazon.

All of us have images of the quintessential American tycoon from stories we have read or what we have seen on television. In this book, the author gives us an intimate and in depth view of what it is to be born in a family of a leading American businessman of his times. J. Willard Marriott, a first generation entrepreneur, was the founder of the Marriott group of enterprises, and a pioneer in many senses. Like the children of every super star, be it in business, in sport or in the movies, J. Willard Marriott, Jr ( the subject of this book) had to face the crushing burden of family and society’s expectations of him. Their relationship was often stormy leading to severe stress the son faced at the hands of a domineering father. It is of immense credit to Bill Marriott, now aged 87, that he grew the business empire he inherited from this father multifold to what it have become today. The Marriott International chain is the largest hotel chain in the world by far with 7000 properties in 130 countries with 176,000 employees all over the globe. It had revenues of $ 20.75 billion in 2018 with net income of $ 1.5 billion.

More than just the story of his business successes, the book throws light on the personal characteristics that made Bill Marriott so successful. He lives a life following a set of sound values, many inherited from his parents. Of course, there were differences too, some very significant. The senior Marriott was a product of his times. He had seen the miseries brought about by the Great Depression of the 1930s at close quarters. This led him to shun debt of any kind. The younger Marriott realized that debt in itself was not evil. On the contrary one could leverage the debts depending on the rates of interest and the business opportunities open elsewhere to make investments. He had a flair for innovation and took what his father felt were too many risks that could be avoided. To young Marriott’s credit, most of the business decisions he took were the right ones.

The book also tells us of the Marriott family’s upbringing in the Mormon faith with their own values, traditions and cultural practices. Throughout his career Bill Marriott,  even as he had major business responsibilities, never hesitated to play a leading role in church activities. He believes his steadfastness to his religion helped him overcome health issues on many occasions. These include a dramatic fire accident which could have killed him in 1985 only a few weeks after the death of his father.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and found it quote absorbing. I would recommend it to those who wish to gain insight to how Marriott grew his business to its present position of eminence in the world of hospitality. It also underscores how Marriott consistently made profits while displaying the highest standards of customer service and integrity.