A grim tale of the glamorous life and the fraud that kept it aloft until all came tumbling down, told with an annoying measure of self-serving drivel by wheeler-dealer and ex-jailbird McNall.
Thanks most likely to the hand of Pulitzer-winner D’Antonio (Tour ’72, 2002, etc.), McNall’s story has a polished momentum. Its subject, however, is deeply unappealing: a striver who broke the law to satisfy an urge to sit at the high table of Los Angeles fame. McNall started as a rare coin-dealer, one for whom making money took a back seat to the historical romance of drachmas, and it’s easy to admire his passion for the work. But soon that passion gave way to the greater pleasure of rubbing shoulders with the Hollywood bigwigs who bought his goods. While McNall bemoans their motives—they were interested in coins for the profit, not the poetry—he started to emulate them, buying into movies and thoroughbreds in hopes of big killings, and entering the world of moneyed celebrity rather than the artistry. By the time he purchased a piece of the L.A. Kings hockey team, he was in desperate need of cash to finance various losing investments. So he resorted to false invoicing, false purchase documents, false appraisals—fraud—for which he now serves up such comments as, “I know those kind of dealings might sound shocking. Some of them were illegal. But in the world I inhabited, those kind of favors were as commonplace as baksheesh in Cairo.” He cringed at “the awful, humiliating prospect of failure. I had become a public figure.” Poor baby. By this point, McNall is shedding interested and sympathetic readers like rain off a slicker.
“Perhaps the fact that I chased so many dreams explains why I ultimately fell from grace.” No, McNall fell from grace—if there was any—because he was a crook who got caught. (8 pp. b&w photo insert, not seen)