Books by Thomas William Simpson

THE CARETAKER by Thomas William Simpson
Released: Feb. 1, 1998

Wickedly hilarious celebration of a typical, if slightly despicable, American family's blithe destruction at the hands of a satanic computer genius posing as the caretaker of a vast East Hampton estate. This time out, Simpson (The Fingerprints of Armless Mike, 1996, etc.) applies his Fay Weldonlike obsessions with modern evil to the particulars of the American have-it-all dream. The Hendersons, a good-looking clan of suburban strivers, are suddenly handed everything they could desire. Recruited as a one-man sales force for a heavily capitalized marketing firm, Gunn Henderson, a handsome, athletic, gun-collecting smoothie who can sell only to people he hates, takes his handsome wife Samantha, their sweetly innocent eight-year-old daughter and their obnoxiously rebellious teenager son to live in an enormous mansion at the far eastern edge of Long Island. The mansion, and its quirky staff, as well as a $250,000 salary, golf-club memberships, a limousine, and paid tuitions at private schools, are perks for Gunn, who hits the road to sell a ridiculous fad toy to five-and-dimes, leaving Samantha with nothing much to do but watch Brady, the estate's handsome, blue-eyed, oh-so-sensitive caretaker, swim nude in the pool. As Samantha is drawn to Brady (who is also our satanic computer genius), Gunn indulges himself on the road, falling in lust, then love, with his silicone-enhanced ``business associate'' Nita Garrett. Garrett, along with just about everyone else in this cynical tale, is part of Brady's elaborate, hi-tech revenge on teenager Gunn's father. Simple revenge, however, is not enough. Brady is also adapting his plot as a new computer game with the Hendersons as characters. Alas, though, the same flaws that make the family so gleefully corruptible must, in the end, bring Brady down, but not before Simpson can show how generous helpings of passion, sex, and luxury make fools of so many of us mortals. Trashy, nasty, and fun. Read full book review >
Released: April 17, 1996

Much ado about precious little in the old-money suburbs, which Simpson (Full Moon Over America, 1994; The Gypsy Storyteller, 1993) has walked us through before. This time, the geography is extended a bit. Mike Standish is pretty seriously adrift. When we meet him, he is on the lam in the Caribbean, holed up on a little spit of sand called the Devil's Cay after successfully burgling his mother-in- law's house and fleeing the country. Mike's real name is Standowski, not Standish, but he changed that when he left his working-class Poughkeepsie home for Ithaca College. There, his preppie roommate, Graham Cramer, introduced Standish to high society by inviting him for holidays to Treetops, his family's lavish estate in New Jersey horse country, where Standish took to the scenery so well that he ended up marrying Cramer's very rich sister-in-law Sarah Browne. Although he has now started a career of sorts as a photographer, his standing as a social upstart suspected of marrying for money prompts Standish to take a job in the family firm, a real-estate business that turns out to be involved in a variety of unsavory deals—and that becomes his real initiation into the world of money (``If I was a crook, I reminded myself in way of justification, then I was by no means the only one. Oh no, those affluent hills were crawling with crooks of the white-collar variety''). As Standish's resentment of his in-laws begins to force a crisis, he finds himself simultaneously being drawn deeper into a world of genuine criminality. The circumstances leading to his flight are described obsessively, though it must be said that they can hardly account for his path in the end. The climax is a hurricane that comes, suitably enough, out of nowhere. Sound and fury: basically a modest story given the treatment of an epic tragedy. Unlikely to convince. (Author tour) Read full book review >
FULL MOON OVER AMERICA by Thomas William Simpson
Released: Aug. 10, 1994

Once again, Simpson (The Gypsy Storyteller, 1993, etc.) takes a popular form—previously the family dynasty saga, here the political biography—and tweaks it to produce giggles but few belly laughs. The novel opens on January 20, 2001, with political reporter Jack Steel standing outside of the rustic island home of 32-year- old president-elect William Conrad Brant MacKenzie. Steel explains ``into the camera'' that there are several controversial factors surrounding MacKenzie's election and promises to delve into the background of ``The Last Innocent Man in America.'' What follows is a mix of reporting on MacKenzie's family background (beginning with his foul-mouthed fat-cat great-grandfather, who once sent a postcard from New Zealand reading, ``I have come halfway around the world...Big fucking deal'') and excerpts from the journals that MacKenzie has kept since he was 10, as well as the occasional exchange between Steel and his subject. Simpson perfectly re- creates the tone of modern, and presumably future, television journalism; his Steel both takes an overly familiar air and insists that he has played no part in the story itself, which turns out to be patently untrue. MacKenzie, however, is never clearly rendered and resembles various political figures at different points in the book. He is alternately portrayed as a political blank slate (Quayle); a wealthy family's son (Bush); a loose cannon running on an independent ticket (Perot); and the author of a book on the environment (Gore). His journals also reveal his single-minded devotion to his now-deceased wife, Dawn, and a childhood friend notes that she expected Dawn, not her husband, to be president some day (guess who). Clearly this slippery hold on MacKenzie's personality is meant to reveal something about the intersection of politics and journalism, but it reveals nothing interesting and instead weakens the satire. Original concepts that fizzle, from an author whose best work is probably still to come. Read full book review >
THE GYPSY STORYTELLER by Thomas William Simpson
Released: March 15, 1993

In his second novel, Simpson (This Way Madness Lies, 1991) ventures afield from suburban New Jersey into a world of blood- lusts and revenge that spans two generations and several continents. Matthew Chandler, the thirtysomething Manhattan lawyer who narrates the tale, tells us right at the start what the problem is: ``See, there's this woman. Good God, there's always a woman.'' In this case, the woman is Rachel, a blind artist whom Matthew has known since his schooldays and whom he shares (unhappily) with his best friend, Daniel Hawthorn. Daniel is a hybrid, sort of a cross between Owen Meany and Rasputin: half-WASP and half-Gypsy, he ranks in most of the world's tennis tournaments and hunts down Nazis in his spare time. He also manages to seduce Rachel as an afterthought, and nearly kills her in a traffic accident that leaves her sightless. Meanwhile, Matthew, who seems to have turned hatred of his suburban parents into a full-time job, finds a way to make room for Daniel and satisfies his resentments once and for all at the close. The Weldonesque tones of the narration here, full of asides and digressions, become something of a nuisance after a while—especially as they come from a character who seems to have formed no opinions or tastes whatsoever (apart from a loathing for his family)—although the story is decently paced and nuanced, and the character of Daniel is nicely drawn. A good read, with a few surprises: Simpson seems to be getting the hang of it. Read full book review >