Reviews > Published on January 12th, 2015

Bookshots: 'Formerly Fingerman' by Joe Nelms

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


Formerly Fingerman

Who wrote it:

A fun, quirky romp through the world of advertising, the mafia, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Joe Nelms, former ad-man and author of The Last Time I Died.

Plot in a box:

A ne'er-do-well advertising exec who's leveled his career and his marriage (more or less—the marriage part has more to do with his wife's infidelity than the network of lies he habitually spins) sort of, kind of, maybe witnesses a mafia hit...and lies through his teeth to create a new life via the Federal Witness Protection Program.

Invent a new title for this book:

The Sneeze That Changed Things

Read this if you liked:

You need a taste for humor, current pop culture, and, well, the mafia. So...The Godfather AND Saturday Night Live. It's the combo that counts here.

Meet the book's lead(s):

Brad Fingerman is a lazy advertising exec who coulda-shoulda-woulda been an artist...and somehow floats through a decent, mid-level career until a meteoric rise to success....and a catastrophic mistake that drops him into the professional netherworld. He has no qualms about lying to cover his ass. So, you know, a real Mad Men type, minus the sexy Jon Hamm-ness.

Brittany Marinakos is an anorexic FBI agent who hopes to find fame via a big mafia bust.

Stump is a straight-laced bodyguard who doesn't sleep, doesn't drink, and is trying to keep Brad alive long enough to testify against the head of one of the most powerful New York Mafioso families.

Said lead(s) would be portrayed in a movie by:

Brad should be played by Chris Pratt. Because I said so. 

Brittany could be played by any number of too-skinny Hollywood ladies. 

Stump should and would HAVE to be played by Chris Hemsworth. Once again, because I said so, and I'm casting this movie. Dammit.

Setting (would you want to live there?):

New York City? Absolutely. Minus the mafia hit part.

And Arizona? I'm not sure. I've never been. You tell me—is it a nice place to live?

What was your favorite sentence?

Advertising tends to be the refuge of cowardly artists—the almost-were screenwriters, painters, photographers, sculptors, glassblowers, novelists and playwrights who didn't have the derring-do to try their craft without a comprehensive health plan and a company-matching 401(k). Pussies.

The Verdict:

I really enjoyed Formerly Fingerman. It saw me through a binge-reading sick-day, successfully making me smile while I felt terrible. The tongue-in-cheek tone, chock full of irony and sarcasm, happens to be one of my favorite tones. It's positively goofy sometimes, and I often found myself wondering: Could this really happen? The answer was almost always a resounding: Sort of? Kind of? Maybe? Who knows?

Because it's close enough to reality to strike home, and far enough away to seem unlikely. 

But I like that. I do. I like to wonder if a dude who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time deserves a do-over. Especially when he's as narcissistic and moronic as Brad Fingerman.

And Joe Nelms can write. He really can! He's smart, funny, and snarky, and he kept me interested throughout the entire tale. If I had to criticize him, though, I'd say this: an editor I know once pointed out how tricky it is to use contemporary pop culture references in a story. You run the risk of alienating future readers who have no idea who Simon Cowell is (because let's face it - Cowell's 15 minutes of fame have to be ending soon, right?). I've pulled plenty of these types of references from my own story, but Formerly Fingerman is full of 'em. Brittany Spears references. Contemporary reality TV references. All kinds of movie star references. Formerly Fingerman has them all.

I'm not sure, then, how well this story will hold up through the generations. But for this, for our generation, it's a fun, quirky romp through the world of advertising, the mafia, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I enjoyed the read quite a bit, and I think you will too.

About the author

Leah Rhyne is a Jersey girl who's lived in the South so long she's lost her accent...but never her attitude. After spending most of her childhood watching movies like Star Wars, Aliens, and A Nightmare On Elm Street, and reading books like Stephen King's The Shining or It, Leah now writes horror and science-fiction. She lives with her husband, daughter, and a small menagerie of pets.

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