Too Much Money, by Dominick Dunne (New York: Crown Publishers, 2009).
Jacket Summary: "The last two years have been monstrously unpleasant for high-society journalist Gus Bailey. His propensity for gossip has finally gotten him into trouble -- $11 million worth. His problems begin when he falls hook, line, and sinker for a fake story from an unreliable source and repeats it on a radio program. As a result of his flip comments, Gus becomes embroiled in a nasty slander suit brought by Kyle Cramden, the powerful congressman he accuses of being involved in the mysterious disappearance of a young woman, and he fears it could mean the end of him.
"The stress of the lawsuit makes it difficult for Gus to focus on the novel he has been contracted to write, which is based upon the suspicious death of billionaire Konstantin Zacharias. It is a story that has dominated the party conversations of Manhattan's chattering classes for more than two years. The convicted murderer is behind bars, but Gus is not convinced that justice was served. There are too many unanswered questions, such as why a paranoid man who was usually accompanied by bodyguards was without protection the very night he perished in a tragic fire.
"Konstantin's hot-tempered widow, Perla, is obsessed with climbing the social ladder and, as a result, she will do anything to suppress this potentially damaging story. Gus is convinced she is the only thing standing between him and the truth."
Opening Line: "A few years ago there was a rumor that I had been murdered at my home in Prud'homme, Connecticut, bu a cross-country serial killer of older men."
My Take: Started this one but didn't get more than a few chapters in before it was due back at the library. Over the years, I've developed a set of rules for how to handle just such a situation. In short, if I haven't even started the book when the due date rolls around, back it goes. Occasionally I make exceptions, if the item's renewable, I don't have a ridiculous backlog of reading material at the moment, and I've really been looking forward to it -- but that really is an exception, and not the rule.
If a book is due back while I'm in the middle of it, it's a tougher call. [Looking over shoulder for the library police] Sometimes, if I've made good headway and am really enjoying the book, I'll throw caution to the winds -- I keep it out a few more days, finish up as quickly as possible, and just write off the overdue fine as the price of admission. Other times, though, there are books like this one, that I've barely started when that fateful day arrives. And, y'know ... I've concluded on those occasions, it just wasn't Meant to Be. This is actually a good argument for patronizing the library instead of just buying everything I want to read (I mean, even on top of the lack of money and shelf space). If I owned a book like this one, there'd be no reason not to let it drag on forever, filling my free time with just about anything else I can think of (crossword puzzles? dumb online games? rereading dog-eared old favorites? Yeah, I need to get out more) because the volume in question just isn't calling me.
Perhaps this book was a victim of my low expectations. I was half-expecting and hoping for a fun send-up of the foibles of New York's rich and famous, almost along the lines of the Olivia Goldsmith romps that used to be a guilty pleasure. It wasn't, and maybe that's to Dunne's credit. The reviews and articles I've read depict Dunne as having been more a journalist who also happened to write novels, usually about crimes committed by the wealthy and the misapplications of justice that often result. And maybe starting with Too Much Money is kind of like venturing into Tolkien by reading The Silmarillion: without knowing the extensive back story, it's hard to care much about what came before or afterwards. But that's pretty much how I felt here; I got the references to the Klaus von Bulow and Gary Condit scandals, of course, but on the whole, I felt like I was walking in on the middle of the movie, or attending a party where everyone knew the inside jokes except me. Ergo, Too Much Money was not my 89th book of the year.
(It will be a nail-biter, folks! Will she or will she not make it to 100? On the one hand, there are just over 2 weeks left; on the other, she's off from work and visiting the 'rents out of town for one of them. Stay tuned.)
- Ithaca, New York
- MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.