Roman clefs are getting lots of attention these days, but you don't have to have been a former assistant at Vogue, ReganBooks or Miramax to publish your wacky professional experiences in fictional garb. You could, for instance, write about your former job at the Strand, the chaotic yet essential used-book store that claims to house 18 miles of texts. That's what Sheridan Hay does in her just-published The Secret of Lost Things, an intriguing novel about eccentric bibliophiles and a missing rare Melville manuscript. The narrator, Rosemary, works at a huge New York used-book store called Arcade, whose owner, Mr. Pike, bears a strong resemblance to Strand head honcho Fred Bass.

Neither Sheridan nor her publisher, Doubleday, are hiding the fact that The Secret of Lost Things draws on the author's tenure at the Strand (which included a stint in the rare-book room). But the Strand isn't exactly jumping at the chance to promote Sheridan's book, perhaps because it portrays the admirably knowledgeable Pike/Bass as a bit of a crank. According to Doubleday publicist Todd Doughty, "We approached them about hosting a reading event, and they politely declined."