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With each passing year it seems increasingly unlikely that Brian Hennigan's Patrick Robertson will ever see print in this country, so we're just going to insist that you order it from England. First published in 2000, it tells the story of Patrick Robertson, a traveling salesman in the machine tools industry. While on business in Bangkok he is kidnapped by the People's Earth Friendly Liberation Group, the world's most inept eco-terrorists. (They have mistaken him for a different Patrick Robertson, from the IMF.) Stranded in the rainforest, Patrick must escape the group's clutches, navigate the jungle, and find his way back to civilization. The book is subtitled "A Tale of Adventure," but it's actually an astounding work of comedy. Hennigan's pitch is perfect: No matter how ridiculous the situation, Robertson remains detached and cynical, offering up little life lessons like the following:

Alcohol is not the answer to all our problems. But if one removes from one's life the problems that cannot be solved with alcohol, the path is clear. Families are a particular nuisance. Get rid of them as soon as possible. With them go all the other responsibilities which require sobriety: pets, in-laws, other parents, Sunday mornings.

Elizabeth was a loser, not a failure. Failures are, on the whole, interesting people. Failures have gambled and lost, battled and been defeated, been conned, swindled, have dived and bobbed before realizing that the world has not been made for them to succeed in. They end up as small-town barkeepers, second-hand (but not antiquarian) booksellers, self-employed business consultants. Cooking is one of the skills common to most failures. For conversation they have the inexhaustible arsenal of a life of strenuous activity thwarted by bureaucracy, public indifference, or 'other people'. Driven by conviction, they have pursued the romantic idyll for many years, before dropping unrewarded, unrecognized, unwanted into anonymity. Losers, on the other hand, are just losers.

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As a teenager I once decided to search for God, although I only got as far as watching television through the window of a rental shop at the local shopping centre. Some people might find this 'ironic' or 'chillingly appropriate.' I know it was just laziness. Nowadays I only encounter God in the odd cry of "Oh God!" from a neighboring hotel room, usually one of desperation rather than sexual ecstasy.

The book is marred by a slightly implausible ending, but up until that point you will find yourself laughing and nodding along. There are very few great novels about business; we'd put this one in that category.

Patrick Robertson []