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Other People's Money
A Comedy of Manners That Connects Bankers in Trouble
to Newspaper and Theatrical Folks
By Elyse Sommer
Justin Cartwright's well-crafted, terrifically readable new novel, Other People's Money (Not to be confused with Jerry Sterner's 1979 play with the same title) revolves around the survival tactics by a powerful and prestigious old London Bank's chairman who's been seduced by the profits to be made from dabbling in hedge funds and other greed-motivated investments. But Cartwright's book is more than a timely tie-in to a "hot" subject. His story touches on all aspects of the contemporary zeitgeist. His characters are all fully realized human beings concerned with how they got to be who and where they are in life. It's a full bodied cast that includes not only financial wheelers, dealers and squealers, but a far from London newspaper publisher and a young reporter finding her true voice as a blogger. Most delightfully, there's also a Falstaffian playwright and regional company manager who lost his actress wife to the bank's dying head honcho.
Theater buffs usually think of books within their field of interest in terms of theatrical memoirs and biographies; case in point, Julie Salamon's engrossing biography of Wendy Wasserstein which we just reviewed (the review). They'll also make room on their book shelves coffee tables and e-reader archives for play anthologies and annuals.
There's no shortage within these categories, especially when it comes to memoirs and biographies. But entertaining, well-written novels in which plays, playwrights and/or actors are pivotal to the plot are more of a rarity — happily a bit less so this year, thanks to Arthur Phillip's clever The Tragedy of Arthur (my review).
While the foundation stone for Cartwright's novel is the dilemma the 340-year-old family-owned bank of Tubal & Co finds itself in, it's more a human comedy than a financial thriller. And that human comedy takes us to other parts of the world, including a Cornish village where the theater director and playwright Artair MacCleod (don't you just love that name?!?) survives, mainly on a monthly allowance he obtained from the Tubal family when his beautiful but untalented wife Fleur abandoned him and the theater to marry Sir Harry Tubal.
It's what happens in that far from London backwater that threatens the secret machinations to sell the bank and save the Tubals' reputation. In fact it's Artair's own scheme to get Daniel Day-Lewis to star in an epic screenplay he's written that provides this witty book with the best of several endings — each of which the author explains with "There are beginnings and there are ends, and there are also many ways of telling the same story."
J. D. Salinger included many wonderful little bits about the theater in his classic The Catcher in the Rye See my feature Holden Caulfield: Theater Aficianado. But, while Salinger deftly used his theater scenes and references to lend color to Holden's journey, Mr. Catwright''s flamboyant playwright is integral to the multi-faceted plot of Other People's Money.
I hope that some producer sees the dramatic possibilities of Cartwright's comedy of manners and commissions him to turn it into a playscript. I think Daniel Day-Lewis would be great in the role of Julian Tubal and, given the current practice of double casting, he could multi-task and also play Artair MacLeod.
Other People's Money is published by Bloomsbury USA and is available in hardcover and as an e- book.
Book of Mormon -CD
Our review of the show
Slings & Arrows-the complete set
You don't have to be a Shakespeare aficionado to love all 21 episodes of this hilarious and moving Canadian TV series about a fictional Shakespeare Company