Hotel (novel)

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First edition

Hotel is a 1965 novel by Arthur Hailey. It is the story of an independent New Orleans hotel, the St. Gregory, and its management's struggle to regain profitability and avoid being assimilated into the O'Keefe chain of hotels. The St. Gregory is supposedly based on the Roosevelt Hotel, although the old St. Charles Hotel is also cited as the basis for the novel.

The novel was adapted into a movie in 1967, and in 1983 Aaron Spelling turned into a television series, airing for five years on ABC. In the TV series the St. Gregory Hotel was moved from New Orleans to San Francisco.

Characters[edit]

  • Peter McDermott, manager
  • Warren Trent, proprietor
  • Christine Francis, secretary to Warren Trent
  • Herbie Chandler, villainous Bell Captain
  • Aloysius Royce, administrative assistant to Warren Trent
  • Curtis O'Keefe, owner of the O'Keefe chain
  • Dorothy "Dodo" Lash, O'Keefe's starlet companion
  • Albert Wells, aging hotel guest
  • The Duke and Duchess of Croydon, guests in the Presidential Suite
  • Ogilvie, house detective
  • Julius "Keycase" Milne, hotel thief
  • Marsha Preyscott, one night guest in the hotel

Story[edit]

Peter McDermott: The main character is Mr. Peter McDermott; the general manager with a past. He is a graduate in Hotel Management from Cornell University and subsequently got a job in a hotel. However, he had been involved with a lady at time when he was supposed to be on duty. This gave Peter’s wife and the lady’s husband a reason to ask for a divorce. McDermott's dalliance was not a big thing for the hotel, but the newspaper coverage was such that he was dismissed from his job and blacklisted. But Warren Trent, the head of the St. Gregory Hotel, ignoring the past and considering the skill, hired him. The novel is about McDermott's attempts to deal with several crises in the hotel which involve a range of other characters.

The Hotel Finance Problem: The Hotel's unpayable and unrenewable mortgage is due on Friday, necessitating its sale. Curtis O'Keefe, who owns a large hotel chain, plans to buy the St. Gregory hotel as the O'Keefe chain did not have a hotel in New Orleans. They had offered to pay the two million due on the mortgage and one million dollar and living accommodation to Warren Trent as well. However Warren did not want to lose the hotel which he had nurtured for so long. They decided upon a deadline of Friday afternoon to make a decision on the deal. Warren Trent meanwhile decided to make a deal with the Journeyman's Union who had long wanted to enter the hotel Industry but were not successful. This way Warren Trent could maintain the hotel's independence and still have a say in its affairs. The Journeyman's Union had decided to send two of its executives on Thursday to study the hotel books and then decide before the Friday afternoon deadline. Royall Edwards of the St. Gregory had been appointed by Warren Trent to work with the two officers all night,if required, so that they could complete the study. However, upset with the denial of entry of a Negro man to the hotel, which made headlines, the Journeyman's Union broke the deal. Warren Trent had no option but to give in to Curtis O'Keefe. To his utmost surprise, a few minutes before Friday noon, the bank manager who had turned down refinancing of the hotel, came with an offer, that an individual, whose name could not be disclosed then, would be paying the mortgage and buying the major shares of the Hotel. Warren Trent would be the chairman, though Warren knew that he would be just a figurehead but as it was a better offer, so he accepted.

Christine and Albert Wells: Christine is Warren Trent's secretary. Peter and Christine have a liking for each other. They share many things in common and feel they could be happy together. In the hotel, an elderly guest, Mr. Albert Wells, suffers a medical problem in his room. The hotel staff is alert and quickly moves him to another room. Christine took care of Albert Wells personally as he was the hotel guest.

Marsha Preyscott: In another incident a group of teen-aged boys create a major incident that is aggravated by the fact that they are the sons of the local banker, car dealer, and other town notables. They attempt to rape Miss Prescott, the daughter of Mr. Prescott, a department store magnate, who is currently in Rome. However on listening her screams, Aloysius Royce, (a Negro and main help to Warren Trent who treats him like a son), steps in and Marsha is able to escape. Peter handles the situation and asks for a written apology from each of the boys involved in it. In these letters, the villainous Bell Captain, Herbie Chandler is named as the one who made the incident possible. Because of his collusion in this, Chandler is threatened with firing on the spot, however, McDermott plans to take it to Mr. Trent, because of Chandler's years of employment. Chandler attempts to bribe the general manager, but fails, and is told to leave the office in a cold rage. Chandler plots some kind of revenge against McDermott, and he steps on Elevator #4. Marsha falls in ‘love’ with Peter McDermott and proposes marriage. Peter finds it difficult to say no to her considering her affluence and beauty but finally says no as he knows that he likes Christine. However he overcomes his sense of guilt when he learns from Anna (Head maid servant of Marsha) that she is always the same and will be OK in a little time and that Anna was not married. However, Marsha, in framing a good background to convince Peter, had said that Anna had a very good life with her husband whom she had met only once before marriage, and it was not necessary to know a person for too long before to decide on marriage.

The Dentist Convention: The hotel business gains a minimum from room rent, the bulk of its profit coming from the food and the conventions held. A major convention of dentists was supposed to be held in the St. Gregory. Dr Ingram, the president of the convention has arrived and settled in his room. Then a Dr. Nicholas, a prominent dentist, university lecturer, and Negro, arrives at the counter, showing a confirmed reservation. However hotel policy does not allow Negroes. Dr Ingram was quite disappointed at this and threatened to take the convention out of the hotel, causing a major loss. When Peter discussed it with Warren he said, that after a few discussions this would be forgotten and the convention would be held and there was no need to worry. And after a few meetings the convention finally decided to stay though Mr. Ingram resigned from his post.

Curtis O'Keefe and Dodo: Curtis O'Keefe, the man who owns a large hotel chain plans to buy the St. Gregory. He is there with Dodo, his girl friend. But Curtis wants to move on. He gets a movie role for Dodo and intends to go to New York to meet his new girlfriend. When Warren tells Curtis that he is not going to accept Curtis' offer to sell the hotel, Curtis is very disappointed and in a fit of anger he tells Dodo that he doesn’t want her any more. Dodo is upset, although somehow she already knows. She has to board her flight to Los Angeles and takes elevator no 4, as she is about to move out of the hotel.

Duke and Duchess of Croydon: In another instance the Duke and Duchess of Croydon are hiding out in the hotel as they are responsible for a gruesome hit-and-run accident which made the headlines. The Duke had gone to a night club and the Duchess reaches the club to find her husband. On their way back the Duke hits a woman and her daughter and both the woman and her daughter died. However, in the accident the headlight and the trim ring of the car were damaged. The Duke and Duchess arrived back at the hotel and try to find a way out, so that there not the slightest suggestion of them being involved in an accident. When the room-service waiter arrives in the presidential suite with dinner, the Duchess intentionally hits him so that her dress gets spoiled. The Duchess creates a big issue over this, just to make her presence felt so that it can be interpreted that she was in the hotel. But the chief house officer Ogilvie gets a hint of it and tries to blackmail the Duke and Duchess. They finally reach an agreement that Ogilvie would drive their Jaguar to Chicago and a total of twenty-five thousand dollars would be paid to him. By the time the police identify the car with the broken headlight and trim pieces, Ogilvie would be out of New Orleans. The travel was supposedly on Thursday night at 1 am. Ogilvie gets a written note from the Duchess asking for permission to drive her car out of garage in case the garage officer asks for it. The moment he is driving the car out of hotel, Peter enters the hotel and they make eye contact, though Peter did not think much of it at the time. However, recollecting all the events - a Jaguar being driven by Ogilvie belonging to the Duke and Duchess - the broken headlight of the Jaguar - the fuss created by Duchess about the waiter - all establish a link towards the involvement of the Duke and Duchess. Peter inquires from the garage officer and is informed that Ogilvie had a written note from the Duchess and so was allowed to drive the car away, but somehow the note got misplaced. Peter informed police captain Yolles of the incident, but they could not prove it without any evidence. After working hard, the incinerator officer, responsible for garbage recycling, manages to find the note. When the note is shown to the Duchess, she frowns. The Duke then decides to admit his crime and decides to leave and steps into elevator no 4.

Keycase Milne: A hotel thief operating in the St. Gregory. He has managed to get keys of several rooms in the hotel by using tricks, asking for other room number keys from the reception desk, using girls to obtain keys for him and many other ways. When he saw the duke and duchess in hotel he thinks it would be excellent if he could get the key of their room. He manages to get the key from reception by trickery, gets a duplicate prepared and steals fifteen thousand dollars and some jewelery from the duchess's room. After obtaining so much he decides to leave the hotel and boards elevator no 4.

Climax: The meeting to take over the hotel scheduled at 11.30 am Friday is in place. Mr. Dempster from New York arrives to tell who his boss is and it is Albert Wells, the hotel guest whom Christine had taken care of and thought of as not a rich man, who has bought the hotel. To Peter's utmost surprise, he is appointed the Executive vice-President of St. Gregory and would be running the hotel with Dempster being the officiating president, the position Dempster had in all other hotels owned by Albert Wells. It was within the meeting itself that Christine comes running and tells them that elevator number 4 has met with an accident and had a free fall, killing a worker.

Dodo suffers a lot of injuries and is rushed to a hospital. It was then that Curtis realizes how much he loves Dodo and gets the best neurosurgeons for her. She is soon out of danger. The Duke is instantly killed. The Duchess, still cold on hearing that, is expressionless. The policeman, Captain Yolles, now thinks the blame for the hit-and-run could be easily moved on Duke as he is now dead and the Duchess could save herself. Keycase escapes unharmed and runs away with all his money, vowing to go straight. Warren Trent is happy that he could retain his hotel as its chairman. Herbie Chandler, the bell captain, is permanently paralyzed and never works again. Aloysius Royce leaves the hotel to study law but not before he and McDermott have a drink together.

Structure of novel[edit]

The novel features multiple unfolding plot lines which take place over a period of five weekdays, Monday through Friday. Some days feature self-contained episodes exploring particular elements of the routine of a large hotel in detail. Meg Yetmein, the cleaning lady, "gets hers back" by smuggling out steaks under her clothing toward the end of her shift; Tom Earlshore, the fired bartender, does much the same by "skimming" liquor. Other brief episodes explain techniques used by prostitutes in entering and exiting the hotel undetected, and the various methods used by the hotel thief.