The cover of the 2007 edition
|Publication date||2000, reiussed 2007|
|Media type||Print (Paperback original)|
e (originally subtitled The Novel of Liars, Lunch and Lost Knickers) is a comic novel by Matt Beaumont first published in 2000. Written in the epistolary tradition, it consists entirely of e-mails written between the employees of an advertising agency and some of their business partners. Thus, the novel is a multiple-perspective narrative where events are seen through the eyes of various people working for the agency, from temp to CEO. e centres on corporate business structures, leadership, creativity, headhunting for and firing people to keep up appearances, work efficiency, business ethics, and all kinds of human weaknesses which stall progress by having employees waste their time and energy on unimportant things and which eventually prevent success.
The setting of e is the very beginning of the new millennium inside the London office of Miller Shanks, a prominent (fictitious) international advertising agency. When the novel opens two major projects are under way: the shooting, on location in Mauritius, of a commercial for a porn channel; and preparations for a sales pitch, with Coca-Cola as the company's prospective client.
While the Coca-Cola advertising campaign is supposed to be kept confidential, David Crutton, the Chief Executive Officer, is astonishingly computer illiterate and inadvertently sends carbon copies of every single one of his e-mails to the Helsinki office of Miller Shanks. Simon Horne, the Creative Director, has stolen the "original" idea on which the Coca-Cola campaign is based from two recent college graduates who are looking for work and does not believe that the past will ever catch up with him. In the end it does, but although the campaign can be patched up in the last minute with the help of the Helsinki office, Coca-Cola finally decide not to award their advertising account to Miller Shanks after one of their female top level managers has watched a secretly filmed video on the Internet showing Horne in his office having sex with a ladyboy.
The shooting in Mauritius goes terribly wrong already during the flight to the island when the breast implants of one of the four models hired to appear in the video explode. Shortly afterwards, yet another model drops out due to hyperthermia, facts which force the creative team to continually rewrite the script. Bad weather makes filming impossible for a couple of days, but the last straw is an alleged sexual attack by the company's male client ("a fat lech") on television presenter Gloria Hunniford, who happens to be staying at the same hotel together with a BBC crew to film a holiday show. Miller Shanks encounter further complications when loose talk at the hotel bar by Topowlski and Douglas, two art directors, triggers a headline in The Sun about the "Hunniford Affair".
Subplots revolve around the frantic attempts of Ken Perry, the Office Administrator, at upholding order in the building; the ongoing love affair between O'Keefe and Lorraine Pallister; a not even half-hearted suicide attempt by Susi Judge-Davis, devoted PA to Simon Horne and Simon Horne alone; and Nigel Godley's failed endeavours to be recognized as both a good chum and a loyal workaholic.
- James F Weissmuller, President of Miller Shanks Worldwide (American)
- Pertti van Helden, CEO of Miller Shanks Helsinki (Finnish)
- David Crutton, CEO of Miller Shanks London (British)
- Simon Horne, creative director of the London branch
- Daniel Westbrooke, Head of Client Services (London branch)
- Harriet Greenbaum
- James Gregory
- Katie Philpott
- Vince Douglas, Pinki Fallon, Liam O'Keefe, Brett Topowlski, art directors and copywriters
- Carla Browne, Zoë Clarke, Susi Judge-Davis, Lorraine Pallister, secretaries/personal assistants
- Rachel Stevenson, Personnel department
- Chandra Kapoor, Peter Renquist, Ravi Basnital, IT department
- Ken Perry, Shanice Duff, Office Administrator
- Nigel Godley, accounts
- Letitia Hegg, headhunter
- Max Gregory, lawyer
- Debbie Wright, friend of Lorraine
According to the author's web site, e "caused something of a stir on its publication, not least in London advertising circles where the debate centred around who the book's characters were based on. It went on to become a bestseller in several countries."
For some time, Miller Shanks even had their own (fictitious) web site, www.millershanks.com (no longer active) for readers to browse through.