The novel has no more energetic entrepreneur than Richard Condon, a supersonic storyteller at the top of the form which he established with The Manchurian Candidate. Full of life, larger than life, this one's about an ice-cold, humorless overachiever, Edward Courance West. His father, an Irish-American up from the docks and the slop shops to Tammany, left him a small fortune and the maxim ""go where the money is""; his mother, a beautiful dark-skinned American born Sicilian never spoke a word of English to her husband after he raped her. And Eddie's memory of a glowering woman spitting unintelligible obscenities tainted his psyche and sparked his taste for those of sombre hue. While not much more than a young man, Eddie saw ""the greatest business opportunity since the Industrial Revolution"" in prohibition, sponsored and subsidized the 18th Amendment, capitalized on it by creating the ""watershed"" of American crime as a one man Mafia monopoly and put the angst right back in gangster. Eddie, the richest man in the world, flaying the memory of his mother, flagellating the hookers he maimed and killed, demonstrating that the ""paranoiacs are the true romantics"" is a fantastic figure. And Condon's whiplash entertainment is pastmasterminded with stunning vitality.