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On the eve of visionary chemist Avery Stanton's retirement as chairman of the Stanton Technologies board, the news that his anointed successor has a long prison record sparks a confrontation that kills Stanton and leaves the question of his successor up for grabs. The two chief grabbers--Stanton's philandering son-in-law Ken Fairchild (Sales), and his abrasive rival Brian Redfern (Finance)--are united for once in their determination to oust smooth economist/jailbird Adam Walsh. But Walsh, unimpressed by the puny buyout offers tendered by Stanton's chief counsel Colin Draggett, digs in, threatening to go public and send the value of Stanton stock plummeting unless he gets a $12 million handshake. As Redfern concocts phony company deals to get the down payment ready, things get soapier on the distaff side: Ken's long-suffering wife Barbara, the old man's daughter, catches her husband in flagrante; Brian's wife Fionna schemes to round up board votes for her man; and Colin, watching his beloved wife Joyce slowly dying, finds himself in bed with Barbara. Meantime, even as questions about Walsh pile up--if he never finished high school, how can an old Princeton friend be vouching for him, along with the wife who knew him from childhood?--Colin, fearful that Stanton's crash could reduce him to poverty, tries to persuade board members to elect a caretaker candidate, and Brian plots secretly and ineptly to kill Walsh--first by hiring muscle, then by doing the job himself. None of the infighting matters in the end, and the tale winds down with a distinct air of ironic anticlimax. But while it lasts, Kiefer (Outlaw, The Perpignon Exchange, etc.) grabs you and doesn't let go. He's a much better grabber than his hapless executives.

Pub Date: May 27th, 1992
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Donald Fine