A Novel Look at the Human Side of Big Pharma

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With the publication of "Wing Walking," Harry Groome can add "novelist" to his resume. If the name sounds vaguely familiar, it's may be because Harry's dad, Harry Connelly Groome, wrote "This Is Advertising: The Ayer Book on What Advertising Is All About, Who Does What and How to Get a Job in It." Or because his son Peter is president of Omnicom's Fathom Communications. And his other son Harry is strategist and account director at Mojo Marketing. But it's most likely because Harry was chairman of SmithKline Beecham Consumer HealthCare.

And "Wing Walking" just happens to be about the pharmaceutical industry--partly, at any rate. What with consumer demand for scandal and thrillers combined with suspicion of the industry--helped along in recent weeks by the Vytorin mess--I thought the book would be something along the lines of "Michael Clayton." Not quite. While the novel starts off with the recall of a blockbuster drug, it's more about the relationships between C-suite players trying to negotiate corporate mergers. As the press material puts it, the novel "provides a look at the well-hidden personal motives that shape executive decisions at the highest level."

Harry admitted he was told by one agent that the book wasn't "druggy enough," but he just "wanted to write a book about the people involved and their interactions." In fact, Harry, who got his M.F.A. in writing from Vermont College after he retired, didn't want to write about the business at all but was nudged by his mentor, best-selling author Brett Lott.

While the book is about Big Pharma, Harry thanks Peter Strawbridge, once the president of the Strawbridge & Clothier department chain, for providing the inspiration for perhaps the most interesting plot line of the book--the leader of a proud family-owned business trying to save his company from destruction while keeping the family together.

We should say, too, that those looking for dirt should go elsewhere. "I wasn't out to get anyone," says Harry, who adds that the characters are all composites--mostly because real people are too boring to hang a novel on.

"Wing Walking" is available, as the saying goes, "wherever fine books are sold," and Harry will be doing some public readings in the upcoming year. Check out harrygroome.com for more details.

UPDATE: I was just informed that the Groome clan's involvement with the ad industry stretches much farther than I'd imagined. Not only were Harry's siblings agency employees, but his daughter Leelee Groome is a senior VP-executive producer at Publicis. In fact, she was responsible for the relaunch of the Maytag Man.
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