by Robert Goolrick
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Available August 25, 2015
From the first paragraph this sizzling, white-hot novel ignites and its tortured burn doesn't stop until the last embers die out. Our anti-hero, Rooney narrates, "When you strike a match, it burns brighter in the first nanosecond than it will ever burn again. That first incandescence. That instantaneous and brilliant flash. 1980 was the year, and I was the match, and that was the year I struck into blinding flame." I don't think I've ever read a more delicious first paragraph! Goolrick is on fire! (Having read A Reliable Wife and Heading Out to Wonderful, I had high hopes for The Fall of Princes). I was not disappointed. In fact, I am thrilled to have had the chance to read Goolrick's latest scorching tale of blistering woe. The film rights have already been optioned to "Being John Malkovich" producer Sandy Stern and R.E.M. 's Michael Stipe. I expect this novel to be a huge seller and widely read among book clubs. In my opinion, this is one book that will be talked about for some time.
1980 is the year of free money. Trading on "The Street" can make you millions in seconds. Rooney is at the top of his game and playing for kicks. He scores a dream job at "The Firm"--one of Wall Street's hallowed, manic trading houses where if you're lucky you hope to retire before forty with enough money to jet set. If you're unlucky, you will die, burn out, or go to prison. It's too much for many a young man with his eyes set on blinding success, stunningly beautiful women, outrageous debauchery and off the charts decadence. The 80's were ripe for Wall Street and Wall Street got rich off the headiness of expensive champagne and ever more expensive cocaine.
Rooney is courted while still in college. Firms want the best and brightest. He is wined and dined. His head is spinning until that fateful day one hand of cards decides his life for him. His "interview" is a card game. He knows he's hired when he opens the box given to him by a secretary. It's a pen with the firm's name embossed on it. Rooney says, "Pay attention. You can hear the match strike. You can smell the sulfur...as the train pulls out of the station through the dark tunnels and into the brilliance of the future."
Rooney tells his own cautionary tale of 80's meteoric success and an even more terrific, epic nosedive from grace. From golden boy to nearly homeless and pathetically helpless schmo barely existing in a roach infested apartment with his dreams now mere ashes of a long ago burnt out fire. He never invites the readers to feel sorry for him; Rooney is merely reminiscing on days gone by. Days of wine and roses, of hopeless abandon, drunken antics, coked up nights that somehow turn to day and time to get to the office.
The turbulence of the era, the glitz and glamour, the music of money, the sheer excess sings off the pages of The Fall of Princes and it is a glorious tune. New York's Wall Street has never seemed more exciting, exclusive and elusive than in this magnificent read.
Rooney may have lived a life of excess but he was loved and that makes up for everything. The compassion of strangers comes through in the days of squalor and that hope keeps humans alive.
I will never forget Rooney and I will never forget the storytelling genius who is Robert Goolrick.
Highly, highly recommended for adult readers and book clubs. I was sorry when this book ended. I feel like I will miss Rooney and his foibles.
FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.
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