Yesterday I bought the novel "Sideways" by Rex Pickett because of some buzz I heard from the Toronto Film Festival about the film based on the book (directed by the great Alexander Payne of 'Election' and 'About Schmidt' fame and starring Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church).
The novel is described as the story of two friends that are "going off for the last time to steep themselves in everything that makes it good to be young, male, and single: Pinot, putting, and prowling bars." Sure, sounds fun. The first chapter takes the narrator to his local wine shop on the Westside for a weekly drunken and unruly wine tasting.
The thing is, I immediately recognized not only the shop, but the imbibed regulars attending the tasting, the disgruntled employee ("James" who would "uncork bottle after bottle, recklessly cherry-picking the store's inventory in retaliation for what he referred to as his insulting salary"), and the burly owner. The names have been changed, but the characters are the same, down to direct quotes of dialogue I too overheard and sometimes participated in.