Life of a Salesman

Wry, tongue-in-cheek, this most entertaining and affecting autobiographical memoir tells the story of Rupert Miller, a man born to sell. But like Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, or Shelly Levene in Glengarry Glen Ross, the pursuit of a sales career has an unexpectedly high price.

Rupert Miller’s tale starts in childhood, his youthful, entrepreneurial spirit fuelling such ventures as ‘Take the Blame’ and ‘Georgieporgiepuddingandpie’, the latter requiring payment in return for kissing girls. An onerous task, indeed.

Unhappily, because of his improper banking methods (even then), Rupert’s mother becomes aware of these activities. Swift action by his father dispatches him first to boarding school and then into the military, where the strict Army rules would hinder, but not rule out, imaginative sales opportunities.

After a final stint for the Army in Kenya, and some highly amusing stories involving, for instance, a spinach-farting hippopotamus, Rupert finds himself in Eastern Europe selling timeshares in Spain.

The awkward 1990’s represent an incongruous mix of Eastern-bloc values and capitalistic tastes, and provide rich material for the author. Here he is just one of a bizarre cast of characters, involving briefcases stuffed with counterfeit notes, Mafia men in blazers and moustachioed female hotel front-desk staff – not to mention the legions of prostitutes, who want nothing but to ‘love you in your room’.

Yet for all Rupert Miller’s hugely enjoyable 1990’s tales, tragedies befall the Miller family at home. His beloved brother Julian, a Haemophiliac, develops AIDS due to the then contaminated blood supplies. His father dies suddenly on a road trip to Poland; and his son, Patryk, is born with a life-altering birth defect.

But love and stability finally arrives in the form of the beautiful Kasia. Can he, the professional salesman that he is, ‘close the deal’ and make her his wife?

A wonderful read that captures vividly the zeitgeist of a changing age in this debut work by Rupert Harry Miller.