In 1945, Milton Reynolds introduced the ballpoint to the United States and triggered the biggest single-day shopping riot in history at Gimbels in Manhattan. The Reynolds International Pen Company made $5 million in eight weeks during the first non-wartime Christmas season. Thereafter, increasing competition from established companies such as Eversharp triggered several years of the "Pen Wars". An exuberant entrepreneur who had already made and lost several fortunes, Reynolds bragged that he "stole it fair and square". This novel is told from Jim's, his mild-mannered son's, point of view about coping with Milton's outrageous schemes then their sudden success.
Is there anything you would change about this book?
I just couldn't get that interested in the primary character, Milton. I realize that this was basically a true representation of him and the author was "using" what was available. However, he was such a shallow and selfish man that the story, for the most part, was just not very enjoyable to me. I know that people have much worse father's than Milton was; thankfully their are many who are much, much better (if not much poorer- financially speaking).
Which scene was your favorite?
The scrambling that Milt did in order to be the first to the U.S. market with the ballpoint pen and the early weeks of sales were both very interesting. These two areas of the book are where the real value was located. In fact, these sections are very solid. I believe I will occasionally remember some of these details as I grab a pen for many years to come.
Any additional comments?
I received this e-book for free in exchange for an unbiased review.
The concept seemed promising enough, and whether entirely true, based on a true story or not I don't know ... initially had thought I cared about where the ballpoint pen came from, and this curiosity was dutifully fulfilled by Mr. Ballpoint, yet left me with a sense of disappointment, like when as a child you expect one Christmas present but get another.
As I said in the headline, this is a story well told by the author. However, it is so in much the same empty way a drunken dinner guest spins yarns of his adventures at the table. Yes he is somewhat entertaining, but there's something sad and pathetic about him as well ... something you can't quite put your finger on. This is how I felt about this story. I was an avid listener up to very near the end, then at once I completely lost interest and had great difficulty bearing the final 10-15 minutes. The off-key Broadway-style singing at the end was the nail in the coffin, so I stopped there, a few minutes short of the finish.
There are just no real surprises here, either in the story itself or the writing. No turns of phrase that make you marvel at the author's skill, no poignant or imaginative exchanges of dialogue.
Perhaps the biggest problem for Mr. Ballpoint is that it lacks any truly likable characters. The narrator, the son of "Mr. Ballpoint" himself is kind of a zero, personality wise, and his wife is not much better -- which I suppose makes them a fitting couple. As for Mr. Ballpoint -- his name escapes me at the moment (yes, he was that memorable) -- is a blustery, bombastic, conniving jackass of a man who, while interesting, is certainly not someone you root for.
Finally, the narrator of the audiobook is just completely ill-chosen in my opinion. He is not untalented, but his tone is relentlessly flippant, sardonic and sort of tired, as if the telling of the story was almost too much for him to bear either. He reminds me of the NPR movie reviewer Bob Mondello. An expressive and nuanced voice, yet best suited for 3-4 minutes of listening, not many hours.