Thursday, June 3, 2010

Wheels By Arthur Hailey (published in 1978) - A detailed novel about the automobile industry

Arthur Hailey is a British/ Canadian novelist who is said to have guaranteed his publishers a best seller. His novels were a product of considerable research and therefore very realistic and gripping. Critics say that his style was of a typical potboiler in which he took many crisis and connected them to encompass all the characters.
In each book Hailey took on a public institution and wove his tales around the characters who are the faces of this organization. The story of the institution is the story of these people involved, their attitudes, emotions, behavior is captured vividly that the reader finds a ultimate page turner. Wheels is the story of a motor company in Detroit. Some say it is loosely based on Ford motors, some say General Motors and some point to Chrysler. But it is really the story of the struggles of Detroit, the motor place.
The tale involves the intrigues involved in designing a motor car and it ultimate launch. Interspersed in this tale is a the theory of economics of car building, the assembly line politics, the competition involved, the back breaking work, family relations of the workers, race relations prevalent in the town etc. It is so real that the echoes of it vibrate even today.

The central character is Adam Trenton, a talented ambitious advanced vehicles planning manager of the fictitious national motors who is consumed by the passion of launching his own car, the Hawk which is targeted to the youth market. He puts his life and energy in to this vehicle and is involved passionately in the designing and marketing stage. He knows that the competitors are fast snipping st his heels and wants be the front trunner in the market. In this over whelming rush, he fails to see his wife and their sons at home. Erica, his wife long ignored is on the verge of a break down and starts having an affair. When even that doesn't work, she becomes a shop lifter. Adam in the mean time blissfully ignorant, has taken up a mistress who ultimately falls in love with his tender hearted son. Soon Erica is arrested for shop lifting and this makes Adam to pause and look at what his passion has made him pay.
There are other characters, none minor. Some like Matt Zaleski who ends up in a wheel chair after decades of faith full service to the company. His daughter, Barbara, an ad executive has no time to spare and is consumed with her boy friend, a talented designer, Brett DeLosanto, who shows amazing leadership skills. At last when Matt Zaleski dies he shows the way for others as a man who could not have a personal life apart from the work he did. Brett and Barbara start a new life by helping others.
The book also is a mirror about the race relations prevailing in the country. To keep pace with the affirmative action outlined by the government, the companies try to hire blacks who previously were shunned. This book tells the story of such disadvantaged men who have no social support system and are sucked back in to the vicious cycle. People like Rollie Knight are not able to survive in-spite of getting a steady job. They are not psychologically supported and the societal sanctions suck him deep in to the mafiosi, and claims his life. Other successful African Americans, like Leonard Wingate, a personnel officer, try to give back to the community and are not supported. Hailey shows the world that such token help does not lead to uplifting the poor, but creates resentment and destruction.
Wheels, I feel is the most powerful of Hailey's books. It deals with relations and relationships in a wonderful manner against the backdrop of an industry which is unforgiving of failure.

Wheels By Arthur Hailey (published in 1978) - A thorough novel about the automobile industry

No comments: