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This Week’s “Next Big Thing”, the Gatsby Edition

2 years ago Jeff Hobbs left New York behind for Los Angeles, moving the day after his wedding when his new wife got a production job. But as the LA Times’ Scott Timberg reports, Hobbs didn’t completely leave Manhattan behind as it serves as the backdrop for his uber-charmed debut novel THE TOURISTS, already landing the 27 year old great notices from the likes of Los Angeles Magazine that whisper something along the lines of “this is the next GREAT GATSBY.”

“There’s a wistfulness to it that’s missing from a lot of contemporary fiction by people in their 20s,” said Bret Easton Ellis, who mentored Hobbs and helped sharpen the novel. “And a sadness that seems very adult, as if Jeff has lived much longer than he actually has. I think that’s why it feels like a throwback. The books I see from debut novelists aren’t anything like this – they aren’t nearly this worldly.” As for how that mentoring took place? A mutual friend’s doing, and Ellis originally commented on a previous Hobbs manuscript, then worked extensively on what became THE TOURISTS, which Simon & Schuster is publishing today.

In other words, not many writers get this kind of attention, and Hobbs recognizes he’s led something of a charmed life. But Timberg finds for someone with that degree of early success – a major-house book contract with little previously published writing, fruitful friendship with famous novelist, rave review in a glossy magazine – his lack of arrogance is almost touching. “I want to apologize to you in advance, actually,” he said, almost making eye contact, “because I sit in a room alone all day and mostly talk to my dog.” As for writing a contemporary GATSBY, Hobbs was taken aback. “Gatsby,” he said, is “kind of a book about a bunch of murderers. But it’s thought of as this tragic love story… I’m almost embarrassed by the comparison.”

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