On her first day at work, Sara drives by the scene of a crime on the isolated road to her new workplace. A man has been murdered and she is the only witness. His body is half in and half out of the car, in the driver's seat. She thinks she has found her first story and is eager to impress her new employer. But when she arrives at the office no one is interested in a real crime. They want stories on fad diets or celebrity shenanigans or alien invasions.
The next time she goes by the same spot, on her way home, the body and the car are gone and she assumes that the police are investigating. Later she realizes that nothing has shown up in the news about the death and the police have not interviewed her. She is curious and starts following up on the crime. Yet her job gets in the way and she is kept very busy.
Sara turns out to be very good at the work the Galaxy does, going after bizarre stories, even faking stories. Along the way, the crime that Sara witnessed fades into the background. She has no proof that it even happened. To be honest, once I got into the story, I did not really care who the murderer was. But the story comes together in the end.
The picture of the workings of the Galaxy is fascinating. The characters are great and there are lots of them, some more likable than others. In some ways this book is too weird to describe; you have to experience it. There are no offices in the working area; tape on the floor demarks "walls" and "doors" and "squaricles", sort of like a cubicles but with no real walls.
Sara's boss, Jack Ingersoll, is an editor whose squaricle has a window, because he is doing a decent job at getting stories in print. Initially they butt heads constantly, but eventually Sara gains some respect and admiration for Jack. They work well together although mostly he sends her out on expeditions alone and with teams to find or create stories. Sometimes I squirmed at the invasions of privacy and the effort they made to get any information, good or bad, on famous people.
But the real fun of the book is the descriptions of the Galaxy office, its editors and reporters, and the maniacal owner who is obsessed with one special celebrity, John Michael Mercer, and will move heaven and earth to get any information on his upcoming marriage. Everybody who works for the Galaxy has huge salaries, three times the going rate for their jobs. Even if the employees decide to move to a more traditional journalistic job, having the Galaxy on their resume doesn't look good. So most of the staff end up feeling like slaves, unhappy and stressed in their jobs but unable to give up the luxuries they have become accustomed to. That sounds like a downer, but Westlake tells the story with such humor and insight that the outrageous stories and the lengths they go to in order to get the stories keeps you reading.
This is Westlake's introduction to Trust Me On This:
A Word in Your Ear
Although there is no newspaper anywhere in the United States like the Weekly Galaxy, as any alert reader will quickly realize, were there such a newspaper in actual real-life existence its activities would be stranger, harsher, and more outrageous than those described herein. The fictioneer labors under the constraint of plausibility; his inventions must stay within the capacity of the audience to accept and believe. God, of course, working with facts, faces no limitation. Were there a factual equivalent to the Weekly Galaxy, it would be much worse than the paper I have invented, its staff and ownership even more lost to all considerations of truth, taste, proportion, honor, morality or any shred of common humanity. Trust me.I loved this book, and I hope to find a copy soon of the follow up to this book: Baby, Would I Lie? That book is set in Branson, Missouri and the country music world.
Publisher: Mysterious Press, 1989. Orig. pub. 1988.
Length: 292 pages
Source: Purchased at the Planned Parenthood book sale, 2013.