Sins of the father visit the son in paranoia, hubris, violence and corruption.
Walter Brimm, a deceitful investment executive, is convinced that his wife Gee, a sociology prof, is having an affair with ur-liberal Tod Marcum, publisher of Kerrytown Review, owner of a bohemian café, and wearer of leather moccasins. Gee, Walter feels, has been neglecting her duties of sex and childcare. Since she’s constantly working overtime with Tod on the latest social injustice, Walter daydreams about sloppy trysts and wives “placing more than a Chekhovian kiss upon the quivering sex” of other people’s husbands. He stews over news stories about scandal in love and business (to him inseparable) and reminisces over his own father’s imprisonment for fraud. Nostalgia works as a temporary buffer against immorality, though before long, his paranoia corrupts his judgement and he begins stealing Tod’s surefire ideas for real estate bids and marketing flexible watchbands. Walter confides in former client Jack Gorne, a tawdry, one-dimensional Execu-playa. After several Faustian deals, Walter ends up with a misappropriation of funds charge while attempting to bankrupt Tod. After losing it all, crashing a benefit and ending up in a hospital, he’s befriended by painter Myrian and her handicapped lover, Janus. Events fall into order too neatly as, it turns out, Walter’s new friends are also friends with Tod. In their presence, Walter grows determined to make reparations for his past sins but soon learns Tod and Gee have shacked up. Enter the paranoid’s timeless dilemma: Do ends justify means? Sequences and characters move in and out of believability as we learn of Janus’s own fraudulent past, for which a claims adjuster blackmails him in order to photograph Myrian nude. We’re treated to strained parallels between the present novel and masterworks, while the sheer volume of exclamations feels bizarrely Russian and the ending is rushed to an offstage gunfight, an innocent plea, and twin confessions.
Forced events and a lackluster cast undermine an otherwise entertaining first novel.