London and the South-East, By David Szalay

Appropriately enough, much of David Szalay's terrific first novel unfolds in and around Brighton, that last resort of ebbing fantasies. Once a "whippet-like" charmer of clients and girlfriends alike, ad salesman and serious drinker Paul now survives in a fractious step-family and dead-end job – a world superbly evoked in all its grisly, jargon-ridden inanition.

For the true rancid flavour of the British office today, apply within. With its tarnished aura of south-coast seediness (Paul even visits a hotel in Eastbourne) and brilliantly bitter picture of pub life as solace and oblivion, this memorable debut irresistibly brings Patrick Hamilton's boozy slaves of solitude to mind.

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