In Bandbox, a rollicking Valentine to Jazz Age New York, Mallon whips up a light confection with just the right amount of literary heft.
Bandbox is a men’s magazine that covers food, fashion, fiction and other ephemera for metrosexuals. Joe Harris, its bombastic editor, is facing pressure from management: an upstart competitor, Cutaway – run by Joe’s talented ex-protégé – is rising in subscriptions at Bandbox’s expense. Joe plans a dramatic comeback, but there’s trouble among the staff. His best writer is lost in the hooch. His number-one model is on a binge of homosexual self-destruction. Even the office slut is looking for permanence.
Into this mix Mallon throws a gee-whiz farm boy from Indiana kidnapped by the mob; an animal-rights activist rescuing the exotic pets used in the photo shoots; a magazine mole ferrying secrets to the competition; a nymphomaniac Hollywood star with a secret baby; and a crooked judge under the heel of New York goons. Now, here’s a story that crackles as it reels along in apparent chaos! But Mallon is a master; he holds the strings tight. In the end, he loops them all through a kidnapping and a dangerous, scripted rescue, leaving the reader with the feeling that true talent is rewarded and triumph always goes to the good-hearted. Mallon’s voice is witty, effervescent, and rich with a love of the era; Bandbox is a novel not to be missed.