Guest Post: The MineFields Blog Tour


If you’re interested in fiction about the world of business, or want to see more of the world portrayed by Mad Men, or just wonder where authors get their ideas from, then read this peek into the mind of the author of The MineFields.

Do you think business fiction is on the rise? What inspired you to take the leap?

I remember asking associates around my office one summer in the early 90’s before heading off to vacation in Vermont, if anyone knew of a novel, I said, “Nothing wrong with trashy either… that when I start reading it I just won’t be able to put it down.” I remember the comments. “No Roth? Heller? Fast for your getaway?” I said , “Not this year… something really fast… a page turner.” And one of my favorite copywriters who worked with me at the time said, “ I have just the book but you’re going to be bad company until you finish it because you won’t be able to get your nose out of the book.” And Kim was right! It’s the only book in my lifetime I read all through the night and into the next morning: The Firm by John Grisham.

It had a pacing I had never experienced before or after . It never quit… it’s like Secretariat on a tear. And of all the novelists whose work run a bit deeper, like Roth, the author who has travelled with me on more vacations… it was this Grisham’s book that, I said to myself, “When I write that great American novel could I write with Grisham’s tempo. And it was not only the pacing that hit me about this novel. It was how cinema graphic the book was. I remember saying to myself while reading all night long, “I can’t wait to see the movie.”

What struck me so is how Grisham changed for me the perception of the legal field. I thought working at a law firm was sober/ boring stuff until I read The Firm only to see it’s inners fly off the page. What drama and “sturm und dram that book has!” And using the ad world to tell my story, Mad Men putting the bar very high, I knew people would be expecting the drama and that I had to deliver on it above and beyond Grisham… whose world, by its nature appears to be more laid back. So THEMINEFIELDS had to be a story that would charge out of the gate and never quit. As Bryan Burrough’s has suggested in his Off The Shelf Column, “I’ve often wondered why there aren’t more strong works of fiction dealing with the business world in The Mad Men tradition.” One just surfaced all the way home.

There is also a scavenger hunt going on as part of the blog tour, with clues scattered among excerpts of the first chapter posted at various blogs. Click on the tour button or go to The MineFields blog tour page at BookTrib for more details. Read the first chapter for yourself and see how fascinating the advertising business can be. You’ll be sold.

The MineFields

The MineFields by Steven C. Eisner is one of those books that will keep me thinking, long after I’ve finished it. The author blurred the line so often between his own life story and that of his character that I’m not sure whether this story was really fiction, or whether the names were just changed to protect the author from any more lawsuits.

The story itself compels, but in the same way that watching an accident compels. The author’s bio lets the reader know from the beginning that the main character’s business success, and subsequent doom, mirrors his own. You know going in there’s going to be a crash and burn. And you can’t stop yourself from watching for the signs.

The story begins with a death, and then is told as a kind of flashback. Sam Spiegel is waiting at his father’s bedside at the hospital. And this final time, Harry Spiegel isn’t coming home. His father survived the Holocaust, but his bad heart finally does him in.

And with Harry gone, Sam begins to lose the advertising agency that his father created, and that Sam has owned for several years. Sam takes it to the top, and then he falls, all the way down.

So, this is a story about the advertising business, since Spiegel Communications is really a stand-in for Eisner  Communications, the advertising agency that is the scene of the author’s own rise and fall.

It’s been compared to Mad Men, which is also an advertising agency story, but Mad Men is about the 1960’s, and The MineFields is about the 1980s, 1990’s and post 9/11. Spiegel, and his creator Eisner, are both Baby Boomers.

The MineFields is much more about family, and family business, and what happens when it all goes to hell in a handbasket. Sam’s father starts the business when he comes to America after the Holocaust. He keeps everything tightly controlled, which probably doesn’t help his heart any. Harry is proud to be able to hand things over to his son, but the loss of control strains the family.

Family businesses strain family relationships — that theme recurs in the book — and with increasingly disastrous results. That’s part of the big train-wreck the reader knows is coming.

Spiegel’s story pulls the reader in because it has such immediacy. He’s telling you his life story, and it feels one-on-one. But, he’s the star. All the other people in his life feel like bit players. And that may be why things ended up the way they did.

Read it for yourself and see. Sam, or is it Steven, spins a good story. But you’ll have to decide for yourself whether you’re sold on his version.

Escape Rating B-: I couldn’t stop reading. That’s always the first test, and The MineFields definitely passed. I find myself questioning why he did what he did, and then wondering which “he” do I mean, Sam or Steven? I’m still thinking about it.

There was a lot of name-dropping. The author used names of real people and real advertising firms and accounts, except for a choice few. It made me wonder about the ones that were changed. I can guess who they really are, but the changes are probably significant, at least in the legal sense. The line between fact and fiction felt razor-thin in those cases.

And because I keep wondering how much of Steven is in Sam, I can’t help but have a question about the ending of the book. At the end, things are looking up for Sam. Is that just fiction? Is that wish-fulfillment? Or is that part of the “true” story behind the book?

I guess I’ll never know.

To read more of my thoughts on The MineFields, head on over to The Book Lovers.

ARC Review: The MineFields by Steven C. Eisner

Format read: hardcover from publicist
Release Date: January 25, 2012
Number of Pages: 311
Genre: business fiction, autobiographical fiction
Publisher: When Words Count Press, LLC
Formats Available: hardcover, ebook

Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author’s Website, Amazon , Barnes & Noble,


From an early age, Sam Spiegel single-mindedly pursued an entrepreneurial path that prepared him to transform a small-time ad agency into a regional powerhouse with national ambitions. A couple decades later, Sam had achieved almost everything he ever dreamed possible as the ad agency’s rainmaker, fountainhead, and unflappable pursuer of success. One final goal remained: To consolidate his gains by attracting an international advertising conglomerate and cash out. That’s when the nation is hit with the most unthinkable tragedy, and Sam begins to take stock of his own life, finding that he is growing weary of the relentless hunt. Unsatisfied in his marriage and embroiled in a mind-boggling professional crisis, everything Sam had achieved is put at risk.

My thoughts:

There seemed to be a really thin line between the fiction and the autobiographical in this book. So thin that it was impossible to tell where the character of Sam Spiegel left off, and the author’s real life filled in the blanks.

Which made reading this book a lot like watching the proverbial train wreck; you know it’s going to be a bloody, gory mess, and you’re still fascinated. You can’t turn your eyes away. The author’s blurb is a spoiler for the big event in the book, the real, or is it the fictional, story is in the details.

The description teases that this is based on or similar to Mad Men. I haven’t had that pleasure. What it is definitely about, much more than advertising, is the rise and inevitable fall of a closely-held family business, and the stresses and strains of trying to patch together a none-too-solid marital partnership by substituting a business partnership that only works if everyone stays at the top of their game indefinitely.

Which doesn’t happen in real life, and wouldn’t make very good fiction either.

Family golden boy goes through meteoric rise (relatively) and catastrophic fall (absolutely) does make good fiction. What I kept wondering was how much of the author’s life was fictionalized to make the story?

It’s hard to get past the temptation to do a Google search and find out.

But as fiction, The MineFields reads like Sam Spiegel, the main character, is telling you his life story over drinks. It’s his perspective, first-person point-of-view, with all the strengths and weakness of first person POV.

Sam knows how to tell a good story, but it’s pretty clear that he’s the star of his own show. Always has been, always will be. Even when he’s hit rock-bottom.

And because Sam is an ad man after all, his story is reads like he’s trying to sell us his version. Or maybe he’s trying to sell himself.

He sold me enough that I couldn’t put the book down. But I can’t stop myself from wondering whether a few things at the end are true or wish-fulfillment on the author’s part.

I give The MineFields 3 and 1/2 stars.