"A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality"
On this edition of ST, we speak by phone with Jacob Tomsky, whose new book, "Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality," has been getting some rather glowing reviews from all over lately. A longtime veteran of the hotel biz, Tomsky here offers a detailed and unflinching yet also down-to-earth and amiable --- and, throughout, quite well-written --- autobiography about what it's really like to work (in every capacity) at an upscale hotel in America. New York Times critic Janet Maslin has thus called this book "Mr. Tomsky's highly amusing guidebook to the dirty little secrets of the hospitality trade. But it is neither a mean-spirited book nor a one-sided one.... [H]e winds up sounding like an essentially honest, decent guy. And his observations about character are keen, perhaps because he's seen it all.... If this were simply a travel book of the news-you-can-use ilk, it would be of only minor interest. But Mr. Tomsky turns out to be an effervescent writer, with enough snark to make his stories sharp-edged but without the self-promoting smugness that sinks so many memoirs.... 'Heads in Beds' embraces the full, novelistic breadth of hotel experience.... [Tomsky] is no longer a hotel employee and now, with good reason, thinks of himself as a writer." And further, as a critic for Booklist has noted: "Comparisons to Anthony Bourdain’s 'Kitchen Confidential' are inevitable but not entirely accurate. Yes, both Tomsky and Bourdain purport to expose the underbelly of service industries with which most readers are familiar, hotels and restaurants. But where Bourdain is all rock ’n’ roll, egotistical bluster, Tomsky is surprisingly earnest and sympathetic; there are, after all, no television programs called 'Top Desk Clerk.' He wants your respect, not your adulation. Sure, he tosses off a few requisite f-bombs, instructs readers on how to steal from hotel mini-bars, and name-drops Brian Wilson, of the Beach Boys, more so because he seems to feel the genre demands it. Indeed, it would be easy to pen a book about crazy hotel guests. But this memoir succeeds, instead, in humanizing the people who park our cars, clean our hotel rooms, and carry our luggage. You will never not tip housekeeping or your bellhop again. Tomsky fell into hotel work and proved to be rather good at it; the same can be said for his writing."