Both more and less than you wanted to know about the scandalous downfall of the chief judge of New York State's Court of...


DOUBLE LIFE: The Shattering Affair Between Chief Judge Sol Wachtler and Socialite Joy Silverman

Both more and less than you wanted to know about the scandalous downfall of the chief judge of New York State's Court of Appeals. How did the highly respected Sol Wachtler wind up convicted in 1993 of plotting a vulgar extortion scheme against his former mistress, Republican Party fundraiser Joy Silverman? Wolfe (Wasted, 1989) strings together a lot of sordid and unanalyzed facts, failing to satisfactorily answer this troubling question. In a cool, simplistic narrative, she sketches the life of Silverman -- abandoned by her natural father, both despised and sexually molested by her stepfather, a jewel-obsessed siren who used and discarded men on her climb up the social ladder; and of Wachtler -- charismatic and ambitious wonder boy of the New York State Republican Party, an emotionally vacuous man who, after his first electoral failure, "" to wear a mask."" Restless on the bench, desperate for attention, and apparently sexually naive, he was ripe for picking by his wife's stepcousin Silverman, and devastated when the affair ended. Silverman (who, unlike Wachtler, declined to be interviewed for this book) emerges as a caricature of a caricature -- the nightmare JAP from hell. (On moving to St. Petersburg, Fla., with her first husband, she reportedly asked, ""Where can you shop here?"") In portraying Wachtler and Silverman and others in their circle, Wolfe settles for facile prose (""earrings...shone on her ears like beacons"") and characterizations (""She refused to let his confession crush her...she'd always had a strong ego""). And she doesn't shed light on how Wachtler was able to function effectively as a judge while suffering from what his psychiatrist said was a drug-induced mania (from Tenuate, Pamelor, Halcion, and other drugs). Likewise, she offers scant evidence for her conclusion that Wachtler ""spent his life concealing, perhaps even from himself, that his nature contained a dark as well as a bright side."" Wolfe reduces an electrifying tale of power and disgrace into a lifeless narrative, and compelling figures into straw men.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1994


Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1994