WORLDLY GOODS by Michael Korda
Kirkus Star

WORLDLY GOODS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The editor-author of Success! does indeed succeed, efficiency if not brilliantly, at whatever he tries--whether it's a family memoir (Charmed Lives), self-helpers, or this solid, readable, unexciting blend of three reliable bestseller ingredients: glossy wheeler dealing, family-dynasty feuding, and Nazi war-crime secrets. Korda's hero is N.Y.'s Paul Foster, who, circa 1978, is a reclusive, elegant, 50-ish multimillionaire. But Foster has a mysteriously blurred past (he first appeared as a refugee in postwar London)--and a mysterious antipathy for business rivals Matthew and Nicholas Greenwood, billionaire father-and-son conglomerateurs. So, when Foster hears that foul, boozy, Mailer-ish writer Irving Kane is working on a Greenwood-empire exposÉ, he's very much interested: he cultivates Nicholas' longtime, ill-treated mistress Diana (love soon blooms); he tries to buy Kane's publishing house; and--with briskly independent Diana now along for the supremely posh ride--he's off to Europe to keep up with Kane's dangerous inquiries into the Greenwood past. Why all this interest? Well, as is soon made clear in well-orchestrated flashbacks, Foster is (unbeknownst to virtually everyone) old Matthew Greenwood's supposedly-dead nephew; back in 1930s Hungary, they were all well-bred GrÜnwalds--part-Jewish, boar-hunting Catholic converts with blueblooded in-laws. And when Eichmann's increasing vigor in rounding up Hungarian Jews threatened even the cozy GrÜnwald relationship with GÖring (they supplied the Reich with uranium for A-bomb plans), Uncle Matthew betrayed brother/partner Steven, tried to seduce aristocratic sister-in-law Betsy, escaped to Switzerland with son Nicholas and the family fortune . . . and eventually left Steven, Betsy, and young Paul to their fate at Auschwitz. (Paul's sister Louise escaped via an arranged marriage.) Small wonder, then, that Paul is out for revenge on his uncle and cousin: with Diana's reluctant help, he's planning to disgrace them, bankrupt them with some Hunt-ish dealings in silver futures, to find evidence of his own claim to half the GrÜnwald/ Greenwood fortune. And though he'll succeed in almost all respects, there'll be some predictable final ironies: a financial traitor within Paul's own organization--and a money-can't-buy-happiness fadeout with loving Diana. Unfortunately, the key characterization here--cool, lonely billionaire Paul--isn't especially appealing or convincing. And the modicum of suspense never moves into a higher gear. But in all other respects Korda's middle-brow craftsmanship is impeccable: steady pacing, smart dialogue, vicarious pleasures galore (food, travel, etc.), the right tone in the Nazi-terror scenes, a few sharp dabs of publishing-world comedy. And readers in search of a tasteful, glamorous, sturdily satisfying money/romance/family saga will do far worse than this shrewdly assembled hybrid: a first novel that reads like anything but.

Pub Date: June 10th, 1982
Publisher: Random House