I have Vince Keenan to thank for my reading of this book. It's as funny as he said it was in his review, maybe even funnier. For me, it was worth reading for Hely's parody of the NYT bestseller list alone. I laughed so much that Judy thought something was wrong with me. (There probably is.) You can read the list at the link, and if you don't think it's funny, then you probably won't like the book, either. Mad Magazine has nothing on Hely.
Pete Tarslaw, the book's narrator, decides that he can write a bestseller. It seems easy enough, once you figure out the formula. So he writes a book called The Tornado Ashes Club. It has everything. Trust me. Tarslaw admits from the beginning that he does some terrible things along the way to fame. He hopes the backstory he's including will make the reader think better of him at the end. It probably doesn't, though maybe Pete isn't quite a soulless as he appeared at the beginning. You can take the climactic showdown in Marfa, Texas, two ways, I think. I tend to be cynical about it, myself, but that's just me.
I'm recommending this book to every writer I know. If there's a publishing target that Hely misses, I can't think what it is. His eye for the telling detail is dead-on, and reading his description of the Oprah show is like watching it. Throughout the book he scatters excerpts from the bestsellers on that list I linked to above. If you didn't know better, you'd think you were reading real thing.
Bonus reason why I liked the book: Hely mentions in passing a mostly forgotten writer named Vance Bourjaily. In my youth when I read really long books, I read Bourjaily's The Violated and was pretty impressed. I have a paperback copy of it on my shelves even now. Not many people even know who Bourjaily is these days, and it was a pleasant surprise to run across his name.