If you’re still mourning the end of the TV show “Mad Men,” dry those tears and turn your attention to Three-Martini Lunch. Suzanne Rindell’s cast of characters may be paying their dues in the world of 1950s book publishing rather than advertising, but it’s not all that hard to imagine them rubbing elbows with the likes of Don Draper or sharing a smoke with Peggy Olson.
A literary triptych, Three-Martini Lunch is a coming-of-age tale about three dreamers trying to break into the New York literary scene. Cliff has recently dropped out of Columbia to focus on writing a novel; Eden has moved to the city from Indiana and aspires to become an editor; and Miles is a black bicycle messenger for an elite publishing house who writes as an attempt to make peace with the father he worries he never truly knew. While pursuing their respective goals, the paths of these three characters will cross, their ambitions and fates entangling in ways none of them could foresee. Each is determined to succeed, but each must decide what they are willing to sacrifice—and whom they will sabotage—in order to do so.
Like Rindell’s bestselling debut, The Other Typist, Three-Martini Lunch is a rollicking period piece that builds to a magnificent crescendo. With an excellent ear for the patter and cadence of the time, Rindell expertly brings a bygone era to life, though the struggles of her trio feel anything but dated. While blackmail and backstabbing keep things suitably scandalous, Rindell also explores deeper issues of race, sexuality, class and gender in ways that feel vital and timely. The end result is a moving novel that proves provocative in more ways than one.