Wenzel's funny, acerbic second novel chronicles the bubble period of the late 1990s in New York, a time when the city was awash in money, CEOs were still masters of the universe and restaurants were the new nightclub. The star of the book is Kyle Clayton, a New York writer with a bestselling novel under his belt (he was also the hero of Wenzel's first novel, the witty Lit Life ). But Clayton's literary star has fallen since his acclaimed debut, and the former playboy has married a Turkish woman and converted to Islam, something that pleases the Muslim staff of City, a swank eatery where Clayton now spends much of his time. One of the owners of the restaurant is multimillionaire Lonny Tumin, a businessman a few years past his prime (he's a virtual carbon copy of Tom Wolfe's character Charles Croker from A Man in Full ). Erin Wyatt, a beautiful aspiring actress whom Clayton had a brief affair with years ago, is now a waitress at City, and she manages to catch the eye of both Clayton and Tumin. A fatwa, a bogus IPO and a manuscript rumored to prove the existence of God fuel Wenzel's clockwork plot. Satirizing Manhattan while also providing an inside glimpse of some of its most powerful players, this sprawling, ambitious novel is mostly entertaining and smartly written, despite an occasional smugness and Wenzel's juvenile wordplay (for instance, a young Asian woman is named Wey Tu Yong). A too-quick resolution, along with some improbable plot twists—not to mention a saccharine happy ending at odds with the tone of the rest of the story—aren't enough to spoil the fun promised by this irrepressible and highly entertaining novel. 4-city author tour. (Feb. 23)
Forecast: Wenzel's second novel is plenty smart enough to satisfy his target audience—hip, urban literary readers. The author skewers lots of recognizable types, and the Muslim angle provides extra depth.
Release date: 02/01/2004