Den of Thieves

Stewart, James B. Den of Thieves. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992.

Reason read: July is typically Job Fair month (although this is not the job most would want to have…).

In a nutshell, Den of Thieves recounts the largest insider-trading scandal in the all-about-me 1980s. It is what happens when all-out avarice collides with above-the-law arrogance. Everyone has a hazy remembrance of Milken, Siegel and Freeman (to name a few) but with thorough research Stewart’s book keeps the details in sharp focus.

Confessional: in this criminal climate we currently live in, I had a hard time reading about a group of individuals who had a blatant disregard for the law. Some things never change. I couldn’t finish this book.

Author fact: Stewart likes going after big time dirty deeds. He has written other books on big time falls from grace.

Book trivia: Stewart includes a great selection of photographs.

Nancy said: Nancy called Den of Thieves “frightening” (Book Lust, p 34).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “BBB: Best Business Books” (p 33). How it is considered a “best business book” I’ll never know.

Bonfire of the Vanities

Wolfe, Tom. The bonfire of the Vanities.New York: Bantam Books, 1988

I will admit I never saw the movie of the same name. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because as a 19 year old I didn’t have time to go to the movies. I was working four different part-time jobs on a little island that has never boasted of a theater.

This is, by far, the most wicked of social satires that I have read so far. Wolfe’s world in The Bonfire of the Vanities is a delicious clash of wealth and poverty, prejudices and avarice, sex and scandal. It seems like the perfect movie for the self indulgent 1980s. There is not a single likable character in the entire story. Everyone is on their way to being corrupted by greed. Greed for money, greed for power, greed for what they don’t have. In their worlds the grass is always greener on the other side of Central park, the other side of the marriage.
Bonfire of the Vanities takes a single incident and illustrates the domino effect one wrong turn and one bad mistake can have. Sherman McCoy is an unhappy Wall Street bonds man who is having an affair with the wife of an aging billionaire. He isn’t supposed to be with her, she isn’t supposed to be with him – a typical scenario for the story. So, when they take a wrong turn and end up lost in a bad section of the the Bronx their car strikes a black teenage boy, possibly killing him. They argue their way out of going to the police, convincing themselves it didn’t happen the way each of them think. Deciding not to tell is their downfall.
When the political Reverend Bacon hears of this “accident” from the mother of the victim the racial significance of the event is not lost on him. Witnesses claim the driver was white so he pushes alcoholic journalist, Peter Fallow, to pursue the story. Peter’s piece about a black youth who was the victim of a hit and run sends the media into a frenzy. Soon Bronx District Attorney Abe Weiss, up for re-election, is out for blood. He knows this is the perfect platform for garnering votes: hang the hit and run driver whatever it takes. Larry Kramer, assistant D.A., does exactly that with barely any evidence: an undamaged car, an eyewitness, and Sherman McCoy’s reluctance to cooperate.

Author Fact: probably the coolest thing (more relevant to me) was that Tom Wolfe used to be a reporter for the Springfield Union paper.

Book Trivia: Bonfire of the Vanities was made into a movie in 1990 and starred Tom Hanks and Melanie Griffith. Interestingly enough, it was a box office flop while the written word was a smashing success.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “100 Good Reads, Decade by Decade (1980s)” (p 179).