The E Before Christmas
by Matt Beaumont, contemporary (2000)
HarperCollins, £2.99, ISBN 0-00-711487-7


Matt Beaumont's first book e, in the words of the cool, is one funking great book. The book is a razor-sharp satire of intraoffice politics and backstabbing that unfurls via a series of emails. The advertising firm of Miller Shanks London is filled with people that one could easily recognize in any office, this time with ten times the grotesque bitch factor. Well, in this slim book, Matt Beaumont takes us back for one more peek at two more months' worth of email correspondence in the madhouse that is Miller Shanks London.

In the word of the incorrigible Liam O'Keefe of the creative department, this is a story of how far a firm can stick its own head up its own arse.

If you have read e, you will know that at the start of the year 2000, David Crutton, the trigger-happy CEO from hell, is aptly transferred to Romania after the firm bungled up its own Coke pitch in an act of self-sabotage never since the first idiot tested a gun on his own kneepads. Harriet Greenbaum, the junior accounts manager, has risen to the post of CEO.

Well, it is now near the end of 2000, and Harriet Greenbaum wants to throw the best Christmas bash for everybody. No more sordid snog fests and drunken sex affairs, no, she wants a real party that the people of Miller Shanks will remember always. She has no idea she will get just that, just not the way she expects.

The familiar cast of losers are all here. Daniel Westbrooke, the insufferably pompous but useless ex-Head of Client Services now demoted to Director of Resource and Training, is still an expert in doing nothing but taking the credit for everything (and passing the blame for anything that goes wrong to his underlings). The triumvirate of hooligans from Creative, Liam, Brett, and Vin, are still up to their nonsense. Their female counterparts, the secretaries from hell, Lorraine, Zoe, and Debbie, still prove that when it comes to the grapevine network, they are still unbeatable.

And don't forget Pertti van Helden, the ridiculous CEO of Miller Shanks Helsinki!

But this time around, the characters who play second fiddle in e take the limelight. Katie Philpott ("Phat Philpott") and Susi Judge-Davis ("Judge Dredd", "The Breadstick") organize the party, and they are heading for the nervous breakdowns of their lives as everything that can go wrong does. Boss Harriet Greenbaum isn't taking prisoners, not when every CEO of Miller Shanks International is attending the party and David Crutton is plotting a counter-usurp coup in his evil throne hall in Romania. In the meanwhile, accounts loser Nigel Godley gets a chance to say more things - much to everyone's dismay, while Melinda Sheridan, the cynical producer, finds herself playing the bemused godmother as she uses her wide network of celebrity and trendy friends to fix everyone's mistakes.

There are two newcomers - Ed Young, a short and really foul-mouthed (think Colin Farrell) Creative, and Wanda ("W&A") Bragg, a bisexual and aggressive Creative who easily come between Liam and Lorraine.

The E Before Christmas is only 120 pages long, but boy, it feels like a year, a very good year of uncontrollable laughter and hurting sides. As in e, every character's email has his or her distinctive voice. Daniel is insufferable, Simon Horne still uses those short and pretentious sentences full of BS, Melinda is sarcasm incarnate, and more - after a while, it is easy to guess who is who just by reading the contents of the email alone.

And the humor! This is vulgar, skanky bitch-slapping ball-busting humor at its most lowbrow and finest.

Consider how Susi Judge-Davis, the Breadstick, has a nervous breakdown and flees the office in tears. Her colleagues are most sympathetic:

brett_topowlski@tbwa.co.uk
4/12/00, 4.22 pm

to... liam_okeefe@millershanks-london.co.uk
cc...
re... football is the game

World's End at six. Vin's asking for it - he's wearing his replica Gazza shirt with matching beer gut.

Breadstick update: Vin just returned from Soho porn run. On his way back he saw Susi in Patisserie Valerie stuffing her gob with chocolate gateau, with a side order of strawberry cheesecake - things must be serious this time. When he pressed his face to the window and ran his tongue stud over the glass by way of comfort, she fled in hysterics.

Closely followed by waiter - hadn't paid her bill. It's not her day, is it?

Poor Susi gets drunk, and Harriet Greenbaum, Madame CEO is not amused, as the latter informs Head of Personnel, Rachel Stevenson.

Harriet Greenbaum - 15/12/00, 9.02am
to... Rachel Stevenson
cc...
re... personnel issue

I arrived this morning to find the attached e on my machine. It confirms what I have long suspected. Susi would use up all three lifelines on the opening question of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and still get the answer wrong. Is there any way we can have her transferred to licking stamps?

ATTACHMENT:

Susi Judge-Davis - 14/12/00, 10.12pm
to... Harriet Greenbaum
cc...
re... thakyou!!
i was so overcom with emotion i had toflee to my desk to recover! i thouht id write you a not wile i was here. it was so sweet of youto giv danniel a award. i shoud ave nown yor email erlier ws only fooling. i am so gullllible!!!! i couldnt uderstand aword what vinie jons was sayin inhis presetation (i rember him as realy wel-spoke wen he won wibledon!) but iam sure it was verrry touchhing! i havent hada chanc tospeak to danel yet but i bet hes as thrilld as i am. thank yu harit!

ps sory aboutthe speling but i is a bit squiffy!!

Naturally, the party is a blast, for all the wrong reasons. "Cameos" by Vinnie Jones, Jarvis Cocker of Pulp, and the Gallagher brothers only complete this riot laugh-a-thon. I fear my stomach is permanently affected by all my laughing so hard.

Seriously, e and this book, The E Before Christmas, if you ask me, are just the perfect vehicle to rid away the blues. What more fun than to laugh at the ridiculously hilarious antics of these losers, while knowing full well that someone out there, there is an actually an office going down in flames just like Miller Shanks London? My friend Cynthia swears that she knows a Susi Judge-Davis in the office she works at, and she recommends these books to anyone who wants a vicarious hoot at the expense of the Susi Judge-Davis types in their lives.

But Harriet Greenbaum sums up the fun pleasure-trips that are these books best with her own wise words of wisdom that will drive that Tom Robbins guy into seizures of envy:

Tonight, I'll be able to take refuge inside a bottle of scotch and fuck the lot of them... Tonight I'm going to join the despatch boys, get royally rat-arsed and have them teach me those Posh Spice football songs.

Count me in - substitute the bottle of scotch with Matt Beaumont's evil, evil wit and watch me get royally rat-arsed along with the loony toons of Miller Shanks London. They are a rascally lot, I must confess, but would you believe that I am more heartbroken than anything that their story must end so soon? It is evil that this author has no books out since this one, but at least I can be assured that no matter what, pandemonium will always reign in the bitchy paradise that is Miller Shanks London, and God bless those losers, I say. God bless the whole lot of 'em bloody tossers!

Rating: 93


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