You may think twice about buying that Rolex after reading How to Sell, Clancy Martin's hilarious and devastating debut about an impressionable Canadian teenager who learns some hard lessons about life, love and diamonds in 1980s Ft. Worth, Tex.
How much of the novel is taken from your experience in the jewelry business?
An awful lot. Most of that stuff is just the way the jewelry business actually is. It doesn't need to be embellished. It's not a business that lends itself to honesty—the jewelry business right now is kind of where the used car business was about 50 years ago. You've got to be extremely careful about who you do business with.
There are some pretty unflattering descriptions of people and business practices in the book.
I'm worried about that. I think that there will be unhappy people at several levels. I think there will be some unhappy customers and people that we did business with. And I know there's going to be a very, very, very unhappy investor. I guess it's like if you know you're going to jail in 30 days, you're just not going to think about it. When you get there, you get there and you'll deal when you get there. I'm also hoping that the statute of limitations will cover certain things, quite honestly. And I feel like there's going to have to be a certain amount of standing up and saying, “I'm sorry.”
You're a philosophy professor now. How'd that happen?
I was working on a dissertation in Copenhagen on Kierkegaard, and my older brother called me and asked me to write a business plan. I didn't know anything about doing that, but he needed to raise half a million dollars, and we raised $10 million. He said, “What are you doing wasting your time with this professor business? Why don't you come be my partner in the jewelry business.” So, that's what I did. I told myself I'd do it for five years and I wound up doing it for seven, then got out, went back to graduate school and finished my Ph.D.
What's a juicy bit that didn't make it into the book?
We were in China to buy pearls, and this guy said, you have to come see my factory. We go to see it, and this factory is the size of 15 or 20 airport hangars. And he said to me, “The great thing is, the workers never have to leave. They have a hospital here, they have a school here. One week a year they can go home to their village, but the rest of the time, they stay right here and they never even have to go outside.” We did not do business with this guy. —