Adam Davies' Debut Novel, 'The Frog King,' Offers a Precocious Peek at the Book World

The Frog King

Adam Davies is sitting in a Manhattan restaurant on an August evening, drinking Scotch and chatting genially about his first book in a Kentucky accent: ”I’m sure it’s gonna develop a handle, you know: roman a clef of the New York City publishing world. And I’m okay with that.”

There are some similarities between Davies and Harry Driscoll, the hero of The Frog King (Riverhead, $13), a frisky coming-of-age novel sure to have reviewers reaching for Bright Lights, Big City analogies and High Fidelity comparisons. Driscoll is an editorial cog at Prestige Books. Davies, 30, once worked on the lower rungs of Random House. Each of them has been scarred by the slush pile — the bins of unsolicited manuscripts received by publishers. Driscoll: ”Slush is an absurd pantomime of futility.” Davies: ”I saw a lot of crazy s — -. Handwritten manuscripts in pencil. On toilet paper.”

They share an interest in verbal energy. Driscoll enjoys arcane words including anaclitic, serpiginous, and pretermit. Davies, who revels in such exotica on the page and professes to be a ”madcap anchorite” in his social life, says that the vocab keeps him company: ”I think what happened was, I’ve got this fatal allergy to legumes, and when I was a kid, I had to learn to read words like dextropolyunsaturategluco-9…in order to stay alive.”

Davies’ novel happens to be the opposite of slush. He has a powerful agent named Esther Newberg and a ”fairy godmother” named Liz Smith, a gossip columnist hopping to inform EW that her ”protege” looks ”like Tom Cruise.” The Frog King, by the way, is ”really a love story,” the author says. ”If I [had] worked in mushroom farming, it would’ve taken place there.”

The Frog King
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