Rader's first chapters here do generate some interest in his mysterious, doomed heroine--Pearl Ransome, a...



Rader's first chapters here do generate some interest in his mysterious, doomed heroine--Pearl Ransome, a white-trash-to-N.Y.-society beauty--but the novel soon lapses into an uneasy mÉlange of melodrama, social history, and sheer, tedious gossip à clef. (A foreshadowing, perhaps, for Truman Capote's long-awaited scuttlebutt epic.) Part of the problem is the shifty, unconvincing, quasi-autobiographical narrator: painfully divorced, jet-hopping writer Mike, who drops names galore (""Truman speaks well of you"") as he tells of his twelve-year infatuation with i Pearl. He meets her by chance in 1967 while in the company of a Puerto Rican hooker: Pearl is then a teenage runaway from down South, trying to get her ill soulmate Piers (a bisexual hustler, apparently) on a plane home; Mike, smitten, sees them off, thinking he's lost Pearl forever. But months later in London, Sir Cecil Chard (read Beaton) tells Mike about a hot new N.Y. model: it's Pearl, now on the cover of Vogue. And though Pearl and Mike (she calls him ""Beau"") get together sexually, she--because of shady Piers' financial needs--has higher matrimonial sights: Mike's rich pal Hayton, son of ailing Ambassador Orin Ransome-a Southern-patrician history-maker (seemingly modeled on the late David Bruce). High-society nuptials ensue, but the marriage is doomed: Hayton's a loser/drunk/ voyeur/masochist; sometime movie-star Pearl adulterizes with Mike, drug-dealer Piers, and others. And the finale is super-scandal. . . with the pseudo-accidental shooting of Hayton and the revelation of the big Piers/Pearl secret--which, hinted at furiously throughout, comes as no surprise. Unfortunately, neither Pearl's personality nor Mike/Beau's love for her is convincing enough to give this tawdry central story resonance. Nor do flatfooted mirrorings of The Great Gatsby--the infatuated narrator, observations on how ""the rich are different""--help. And Rader unsuccessfully tries to fill the gaps with tired pronouncements on political/social history (""The sixties were about death""); with peeks into high-life with the art/fashion/socialite ""Pack"" (Southern-mansion wedding, Manhattan orgy); and with gratuitous palaver (except for Nelson, ""none of the Rockefellers were especially warm or demonstrative or even particularly likable""). Tacky tattle gotten up as fiction--with a fair measure of appeal to N.Y. rumor-mavens, but little more narrative impact than the routine melodrama of Miracle (1978).

Pub Date: May 1, 1981


Page Count: -

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1981