PALM BEACH by Pat Booth


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Making her American debut here, British writer Booth (Master Photographers, Sparklers, Big Apple) serves up what strains to be a behind-the-scenes expos‚ of life among the rich, decadent and powerful elite of Palm Beach. Built upon the rags-to-riches saga of its beautiful young heroine, Palm Bech propels its assorted characters through a plot that features ruthless social-climbing, incest, lesbianism, murder, and other assorted pastimes that the author would have us believe are routine among the privileged. Born on the wrong side of the tracks, stunning aerobics teacher Lisa Starx is catapulted into the inner sanctums of the glitterati when gorgeous, fabulously wealthy and homosexually inclined Joanne Duke takes a shine to her. The wife of one of Palm Beach's aging plutocrats, Joanne introduces Lisa to Bobby Stansfield, another scion of the town's nobility. Soon Stansfield, an enormously popular US Senator with presidential ambitions, and Lisa embark on a pyrotechnic affair, arousing the potentially lethal jealousies of Joanne. When Joanne's own husband threatens to divorce her and leave her penniless, Joarme first murders him by running him over with a speed boat, and then engineers the breakup of Bobby and Lisa, who is by now pregnant with Bobby's child. Then, to further her voracious social ambitions, Joanne buys Bobby's hand in marriage. For his part, Bobby heartlessly dumps Lisa, explaining to her that she just isn't good enough to continue the Stansfield line. Devastated by Bobby's faithlessness, Lisa marries her own geriatric and staggeringly wealthy Palm Beacher, waits him out, and gleefully takes over his publishing empire when he cooperatively dies shortly after their marriage. At this point, a subplot develops, featuring the unwittingly incestuous dalliance between Scott, the illegitimate son of Bobby and Lisa, and Christie, the legitimate offspring of Bobby and Joanne. This sidetrack is good for several steamy sex scenes, flavored by additional couplings between Scott and Joanne herself. In the end, when Joanne is brutally murdered by a pimp, the way is paved--hold on to your hats--for a reunion between Bobby and Lisa, who are finally married in a glittering ceremony witnessed by tout le monde. Although Booth undoubtedly hoped to do to Palm Beach what Jackie Collins repeatedly does to Hollywood, this novel lacks the real insider's relentless authority. All the sleaze and vulgarity in the world--and most of it has wound up in Palm Beach--can't turn a crudely plotted and voyeuristic saga into a first-rate sizzler. No matter if this unsavory tale is supposed to be taken as real life--every word of it still rings false.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1985
Publisher: Crown