THE PALACE by Paul Erdman
Kirkus Star


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An unwontedly flat entertainment from a best-selling author whose plausibly plotted thrillers (The Panic of '89, The Last Days of America, etc.) have set the pace for fanciful financial fiction. In Erdman's linear saga, Philadelphian Danny Lehman strikes it moderately rich during the 1960's with a chain of currency exchanges. His shops (which also deal in coins, precious metals, and offshore money laundering services) give him an ante sufficient to take over a Las Vegas casino/hotel complex that's about to be closed down by the Nevada Gaming Commission because of mob ties. Having obtained resourcefully camouflaged long-term financing from a Meyer Lansky-like front man, foresighted Danny purges his pleasure dome (renamed The Palace) of criminal elements (including the two murderous thugs whose ill-gotten skimming gains he had been laundering) and prospers mightily by catering to high rollers. Along his upwardly mobile way, street-smart Danny acquires some decidedly strange bedfellows. Their ranks encompass a Waspy investment banker with a wealth of wily connections in transnational financial circles, an opportunistic casino manager, a tinhorn Hollywood agent, and, most notably, Sandra Lee--a statuesque black Mills College dropout turned Vegas courtesan who achieves boon-companion status. Eventually, Danny gets bumped from the high-stakes game when unscrupulous associates and ambitious pols conspire to deny him a permanent license for an Atlantic City Palace. At the end of his 20-year run, whilst friends and foes get approximately what's coming to them, he winds up with Sandra Lee and a consolation prize exceeding $100 million (the proceeds of a leveraged buyout), contemplating a return to the retail coin business, this time on London's Bond Street. Longer on symmetries than either suspense or the scandalous detail for which Erdman is noted, the sketchy narrative comes as a genuine disappointment.

Pub Date: Feb. 8th, 1987
Publisher: Doubleday