A: I wasn't trying to do a definitive piece on the O. J. Simpson trial. There have been 58 books, and I'm sick of it -- sick of reading about it. I wanted to show a city in the grip of a murder trial. Because what was fascinating was that all over that city [Los Angeles] no matter what strata, the main conversation was about that trial. It was the obsession -- from the guy putting the gas in your car to the grandest Hollywood house.
Q: There has been a lot of talk about how much of your book is fiction and how much is not fiction. Except for Gus Bailey and the members of his family, all of the names in the book are actual ones -- from Diana, Princess of Wales, to Elizabeth Taylor to Frank Sinatra to Kirk Douglas. Can you comment on that?
A: Another City Not My Own is an autobiography of myself during that year of my life -- and it is extraordinarily accurate. The character Gus Bailey is unmistakably Dominick Dunne, and the books and miniseries are mine. Most of the conversations in the book actually took place, and the characters are actual people with whom I came in contact; the book reflects what went on around that trial.
Q: What about the inclusion of Andrew Cunanan?
A: Oh, yes. Well, halfway through writing the book -- when Andrew Cunanan was on his cross-country tour -- I was reminded of how many successful industry men bring young boys to parties -- any one of whom could have been Cunanan. Though I may have met Cunanan, I can't say that I ever actually did. But I needed a character like him, and he seemed to be the perfect solution.
Q: Can you name some of the writers who have influenced or impressed you over the years?
A: I write every day of my life, but I am a constant reader. I knew Truman Capote, and he's been a huge influence on my career; oddly enough we write on the same subjects -- murder and society. But In Cold Blood is one of the most brilliant books ever written by an American. I just finished English writer John Banville's book The Untouchable, an account of Anthony Blunt, who was curator of the queen's pictures and discovered to be one of Britain's spies for the Soviet Union. It is just a masterpiece of wonderful writing. My favorite classic author is Anthony Trollope.
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About the Author
Dominick Dunne, who spent three years covering the trials of O.J. Simpson, is an internationally acclaimed journalist and the best-selling author of both fiction and nonfiction, including A Season in Purgatory, An Inconvenient Woman, The Two Mrs. Grenvilles, People Like Us, and The Mansions of Limbo.
Read an Excerpt
Yes, yes, it's true. The conscientious reporter sets aside his personal views when reporting events and tries to emulate the detachment of a camera lens, all opinions held in harness, but the man with whom this narrative deals did not adhere to this dictum, at least when it came to the subject of murder, a subject with which he had had a personal involvement in the past. Consequently, his reportage was rebuked in certain quarters of both the journalistic and the legal professions, which was a matter of indifference to him. He never hesitated to speak up and point out, in print or on television, that his reportage on matters of murder was cheered by much larger numbers in other quarters. "Walk down Madison Avenue with me and see for yourself how often I am stopped by total strangers," he said in reply to a hate letter he received from an enraged man who wrote that he had vilified O.J. Simpson "through the pages of your pretentious magazine for two and a half years."
His name, as it appeared in print or when he was introduced on television, was Augustus Bailey, but he was known to his friends, and even to those who disliked him intensely, because of the way he had written about them, as Gus, or Gus Bailey. His name appeared frequently in the newspapers. His lectures were sold out. He was asked to deliver eulogies at important funerals or to introduce speakers at public events in hotel ballrooms. He knew the kind of people who said "We'll send our plane" when they invited him for weekends in distant places.
From the beginning, you have to understand this about Gus Bailey: He knew what was going to happen before it happened. His premonitions had far less to do with fact thanwith his inner feelings, on which he had learned to rely greatly in the last half dozen years of his life. He said over the telephone to his younger son, Zander, the son who was lost in a mountain-climbing mishap during the double murder trial of Orenthal James Simpson, "I don't know why, but I keep having this feeling that something untoward is going to happen to me."
Certainly, there are enough references to his obliteration in his journal in the months before he was found dead in the media room of his country house in Prud'homme, Connecticut, where he had been watching the miniseries of one of his novels, A Season in Purgatory. The book was about a rich young man who got away with murder because of the influence of his prominent and powerful father. Getting away with murder was a relentless theme of Gus Bailey's. He was pitiless in his journalistic and novelistic pursuit of those who did, as well as of those in the legal profession who created the false defenses that often set their clients free. That book, the miniseries of which he was watching, had brought Gus Bailey and the unsolved murder in Greenwich, Connecticut, which, to avoid a libel suit, he had renamed Scarborough Hill, a great deal of notoriety at the time of its publication, resulting in the reopening of the murder case by the police. Gus had fervently believed that the case remained unsolved because the police had been intimidated by the power and wealth of the killer's family, which extended all the way to the highest office in the land.
"It was exactly the same thing in the Woodward case," said Gus, who had written an earlier novel about a famous society shooting in the aristocratic Woodward family on Long Island in the fifties called The Two Mrs. Grenvilles. "The police were simply outdazzled by the grandeur of Elsie, whom I called Alice Grenville, and Ann Woodward got away with shooting her husband."
As always, when Gus's passions were involved in his writing, he ruffled feathers. Powerful families became upset with him. He created enemies.
"You seem to have annoyed a great many very important people," said Gillian Greenwood of the BBC, as a statement not a question, in the living room of Gus Bailey's New York penthouse, where she was interviewing him on camera for a documentary on his life called The Trials of Augustus Bailey.
Gus, who was used to being on camera, nodded agreement with her statement. "True," he replied.
"Do people ever dislike you, the way you write about them?" asked Gillian, who was producing and directing the documentary.
"There seems to be a long line," answered Gus.
"Does that bother you?" she asked.
"It's an occupational hazard, I suppose," said Gus.
"Does it bother you?" Gillian repeated.
"Sometimes yes. It depends who, really. Do I care that a killer or a rapist dislikes me? Or the lawyers who get them acquitted? Of course not. Some of those people, like Leslie Abramson, I am proud to be disliked by."
"Yes, yes, Leslie Abramson," said Gillian. "She told us you weren't in her league when we interviewed her for this documentary."
Gus, who was a lapsed Catholic, looked heavenward as he replied, "Thank you, God, that I am not in Leslie Abramson's league."
"What happens when you meet these people you write about? You must run into some of them, the way you go out so much, and the circles you travel in."
"It does happen. It's not uncommon. Mostly, it's very civilized. Averted eyes, that sort of thing. A fashionable lady in New York, Mrs. de la Renta, turned her back on me at dinner one night and spoke not a word in my direction for the hour and a half we were sitting on gold chairs in Chessy Rayner's dining room. I rather enjoyed that. Sometimes it's not quite so civilized, and there have been a few minor skirmishes in public."
"That's what I want to hear about," said Gillian.
Gus laughed. "I seem to have annoyed a rather select number of your countrymen when I wrote in Vanity Fair magazine that I believed the British aristocrat Lord Lucan, who murdered his children's nanny in the mistaken belief that she was his wife and then vanished off the face of the earth, was alive and well and being supported in exile by a group of very rich men who enjoyed the sport of harboring a killer from the law. Certain of those men were very annoyed with me."
"Oh, let me guess," said Gillian. "You annoyed the all-powerful James Goldsmith, and he's very litigious."
"Curiously enough, not Jimmy Goldsmith, who had every reason to be annoyed," said Gus. "He chose to treat the whole thing as a tremendous joke. 'Gus here thinks Lucky Lucan is hiding out at my place in Mexico,' he said one night at a party at Wendy Stark's in Hollywood, which we both attended, and everyone roared with laughter at such an absurdity."
"Who, then?" persisted Gillian.
"Selim Zilkha, a very rich Iraqi who used to live in London, had dinner with Lucky Lucan the night before the murder, which I wrote about. Now he lives in Bel Air. He made a public fuss about me at the opening night of Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, when he chastised one of his guests, the Countess of Dudley, who was visiting from London, for greeting me with a kiss on each cheek. He referred to me by a four-letter word beginning with s that I can't say on television."
"The countess, who was no stranger to controversy herself, told off Zilkha in no uncertain terms," said Gus.
"She said she'd kiss whomever she wanted to kiss and, furthermore, 'Gus Bailey is an old friend of many years.'"
"Tell me more."
"Another Lucan instance happened in your country," said Gus. "Another of the men I mentioned, John Aspinall, a rich guy who owned the gambling club above Annabel's where Lord Lucan was a shill, made a terrible fuss at a Rothschild dance in London. He wanted Evelyn to throw me out."
"Were you thrown out?"
"Of course not. The way I look at it is this: If Lucan is dead, as they all claim, why don't they just laugh me off as a quack? Why do I enrage them so?"
From the Paperback edition.
On Monday, December 15th, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Dominick Dune to discuss ANOTHER CITY, NOT MY OWN.
Moderator: Welcome, Mr. Dunne. We're glad to have you here tonight.
Dominick Dunne: I'm delighted to be here.
Tom from Elizabeth, NJ: From all I've been reading about ANOTHER CITY, your life sounds like it's been pretty interesting.... Any chance that you may someday write a memoir about your own life, going beyond THE TRIAL OF THE CENTURY?
Dominick Dunne: Yes indeed, it is very much on my mind. In fact, today at lunch someone made the same suggestion to me.
Dolores Baxter from Clayton, MO: Hello, Mr. Dunne. I saw you in your son's movie "Addicted to Love" -- great cameo and good casting job. What is Griffin working on right now? Do you have plans to appear in any more movies in the future?
Dominick Dunne: Griffin is currently at Warner Brothers, where he is preparing a new film called "Practical Magic," which will star Sandra Bullock; they will begin shooting in January. I will make a cameo in the new Joe Esterhaus movie, and I hope to do more acting.
Sherri Brown from Hartford: Why did you choose to write this book -- about a real event -- as a novel? Why nonfiction over fiction?
Dominick Dunne: I wanted my book to be different from the other 60-plus books already written on the O. J. case. My book is about me, Dominick Dunne, in the guise of Gus Bailey. The book is really a history of L.A. during the year of the O. J. case. I chose to write it in the style with which I've written it, and with which I'm very pleased.
Peter from New York: I read that you're getting a lot of heat from people who didn't like the way in which they were portrayed in the book -- like Faye Resnick. Is this true, and does this surprise you? How do you deal with people becoming upset by your books?
Dominick Dunne: This is not the first time people have been upset by one of my books. What I find is that any irritation they have, they usually get over.
Manny from San Francisco: Having been closely involved in the trial, can you explain what it was about the event that attracted the attention and ignited the passions of so many people?
Dominick Dunne: From the very beginning the story had a sordid glamour to it, which made it intoxicating for the public, and for me.
Melina from Washington, DC: The passages about your meeting with Princess Diana were particularly jarring in light of her tragic death. Did you think about how poignant that would "read" when the accident happened this summer?
Dominick Dunne: I did, yes. And I thought it was very important to keep that scene in as it happened within a year before she died. I thought she was wonderful.
Anne Selbert from South Beach: Mr. Dunne, I've always been a fan of your writing, but I'm curious to know why you presented such a biased perspective to your audience. It's clear you think O. J. is guilty, but is it fair to express such a devastating opinion when he's not been proven guilty in court?
Dominick Dunne: The last time I heard we still had free speech in America. This is what I believe and this is what I wrote. I make no apology.
Caleef from California: Some people have said that the O. J. trial was decided when the jury was selected. Do you agree?
Dominick Dunne: Certainly the selection of the jury was a major component in the acquittal. When Larry King asked me after the trial who on the defense team I thought was most responsible, I replied that I thought it was the jury consultant.
Pamela from Bryn Mawr, PA: I find it inspiring that you didn't "succeed" at your intended career (film), but later came to writing and have excelled. Do you have any words of wisdom for young people aspiring to creative fields?
Dominick Dunne: Never be afraid to make a change if the area you are concentrating on is not the one where your true talent lies. The most important thing is to get to know your own talent and to understand it.
C. Poole from Athens, Georgia: Most of your novels are based on real people and events; do you feel that life is truly stranger that fiction?
Dominick Dunne: Nothing that I could make up in my mind would rival what I see on a day-to-day basis in real life. That is why all my novels are based on real events and real people.
Rachel from Sisna.com: Hello, Mr. Dunne! Is your drive to expose the mishaps of our country's justice system the residual effect of your daughter's murder? How is it that these murderers can go free?
Dominick Dunne: I had never attended a trial until I attended the trial of the man who killed my daughter. It was an eye-opening experience for me to see that the rights of the man on trial exceeded the rights of his victim. That event has had much influence on my writing about the events in America among the rich and powerful.
Donby from Ohio: I know that you were at the O. J. trial every day. But since every journalist wanted to be there and the space was small, how did you get to be one of the lucky few?
Dominick Dunne: My seat was assigned to me by Judge Lance Ito. He felt that by placing me next to the Goldman family -- that because of the similar situation in my own life, I would not interfere with their own grief.
Paul from Morris Plains, NJ: Were you at all surprised by the failures or successes of the books that came out of the O. J. trial? I mean, Chris Darden's book was the top selling, with such a relatively small advance, while Marcia Clark's book did nowhere near as well as anticipated.
Dominick Dunne: With so many books coming out, there were bound to be hits and misses, and there were far more misses than hits. To me, the best two trial books were THE RUN OF HIS LIFE by Jeffrey Toobin and AMERICAN TRAGEDY by Larry Schiller, but I also enjoyed Detective Mark Fuhrman's book and Chris Darden's book.
Ellen from Anywhere: Did you make the book fictional to protect yourself from some of the revelations in the book?
Dominick Dunne: No. I made myself fictional because Gus Bailey ceases to exist at the end of the book, and Dominick Dunne is still here.
Elaine from Austin, TX: I read recently that Faye is pretty mad about her depiction in the book. Have you heard from her?
Dominick Dunne: I have always been a great supporter of Faye Resnick; I admired her the first time I met her. There was one paragraph in the book which she didn't like, and I have removed it.
Lesley from Portland: ANOTHER CITY, NOT MY OWN includes a lot of reflection of the life of "Gus," then he's killed at the end. Is this an indication that this might be your last novel?
Dominick Dunne: No, it is not my last novel. The death of Gus signifies only that I'm not going to cover any more murder trials. I became too emotionally involved, and I don't want to go through that experience again.
Claude Piers from Ann Arbor: Do you think it's possible that O. J. will reestablish his career as a sports announcer? What do you see in his future?
Dominick Dunne: I think it is highly unlikely that he will reestablish his career in this country. It is hard for me to visualize what his future will be. When he appeared as a guest on a television show in New York, a third of the audience walked out.
Tom from Cleveland: Would you ever want to cover a trial, major or minor, again?
Dominick Dunne: Yes, I will cover a trial, major or minor, but not a murder trial. If the Paula Jones trial is not settled beforehand, I plan to cover that trial.
Karla Jean from Chicago: Why is L.A. not your "own city"?
Dominick Dunne: Because I don't live there. I live in New York and Connecticut. I lived there for 24 years but left in 1979 and reestablished my New York residence.
Karen from Cucamonga: Some people have called it the trial of the century. But what about the Lindbergh kidnapping trial?
Dominick Dunne: I was a little boy during the Lindbergh trial, but I remember the frenzy that it caused. There's no explanation why the O. J. trial was the "trial of the century" except that it was probably the most discussed of any American trial, and it went on the longest.
Michael from Port Clinton: I found your commentary to be interesting and valuable in capturing what was going on at the trial. If you had one question to ask O. J. Simpson to which you knew he would respond truthfully, what would it be?
Dominick Dunne: I don't think O. J. Simpson is capable of responding truthfully. I am often asked this question. During the civil trial, I watched him lie hour after hour -- he is not capable of telling the truth.
John from Houston: Thanks for your book. I finished reading it on Saturday and it was fascinating. The one question I will ask is: Did you actually meet Andrew Cunanan several times? The one question I will not ask (unlike most of those in the book) is: Were Marcia Clark and Chris Darden having an affair?
Dominick Dunne: I never met Andrew Cunanan. I had always had a problem about who would do away with Gus Bailey. During the writing of the book, Andrew Cunanan began his cross-country killing spree. At that time I thought back to some of the events I had attended during the trial, and I placed him in the background of a few of those events -- he was not at any of them, but he might have been, as that was the world he aspired to.
Jon Battle from Plano, TX: You talk about many things the defense had "over" the court, like Ito's wife and Fuhrman. Was this knowledge held by the prosecution? Why didn't they ever use any of this?
Dominick Dunne: I really don't know. I never understood why the prosecution didn't use the freeway chase. There's a lot about the prosecution I never understood.
Lee Ann Kelley from Columbia, MO: I will never forget the dumbfounded expression on your face as the verdict was read. Were you really surprised, or just expressing your disapproval of the verdict?
Dominick Dunne: I was really surprised.
John L. from NYC: What do you know about O.J.'s note that was read while he was on the lam -- was it mentioned at the trial?
Dominick Dunne: Simpson's so-called suicide note was never introduced into the trial. I know no more about it than you do.
Parker from Houston: Since you have such insight into the "trial of the century," I wonder if you have insight into the "mystery of the '90s" -- what is going on with JonBenet Ramsey's murder investigation? Do you believe the Ramseys are as guilty as they smell?
Dominick Dunne: I have not really studied the JonBenet Ramsey case. I think it's possible that Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey could be protecting their young son; it's the only explanation I can think of that would keep them together. Please note, this is only a theory -- I have no proof of this.
Kathleen from Los Angeles: Have you had any contact with Greta Van Sustern since the day the not-guilty verdict was read?
Dominick Dunne: Indeed I have. Greta and I made up our differences during the civil trial, and we have subsequently become friends. I have had several complimentary phone calls from her about my book.
Kathleen from Los Angeles: Did you ever go online to discuss the O. J. trial?
Dominick Dunne: I don't think I went online during the trial, but I have discussed it several times online since the trial.
Matt from Seattle: What is your favorite of the books you've written?
Dominick Dunne: My favorite is always the book I have most recently finished.
Howard from Long Island City: What is next for you?
Dominick Dunne: First I am going back to Vanity Fair to write some articles. I am in the process of doing a coffee-table book based on my scrapbook from the '50s, and I'm also in the planning stages of a novel in the Somerset Maugham fashion.
Kate Leahy from NYC: Do you think the O. J. trial will have a long-term impact on race relations in the U.S.? I am despairing at this point. Should I be?
Dominick Dunne: Yes, I do. I think at some future time, it will looked on as a main focal point in the breakdown of race relations in our country.
Debra from Los Angeles: Who is your favorite author?
Dominick Dunne: My favorite author is Trollope, the 19th-century English writer.
Moderator: Thanks for indulging our curiosity about the "trial of the century." Goodnight and happy holidays.
Dominick Dunne: Thank you very much -- I've enjoyed the questions. Happy holiday to all of you!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
if dunne based bailey on himself i think i would have hated him. and everyone famous in the book seemed to be his friend.took the word friend to a whole new level.the book is interesting though.dunne is just so shameless, thats what i hate about the book- the way he feels so self important.
I personally found this book hard to put down - the content was mind riveting & his other books of which I have read them all were equally as outstanding. The plot kept you wanting to finish the whole book at once.
You know how a pointellist painting makes a whole picture out of separate colored specks ? This book was like that. individual paragraphs, slices of conversation, reactions and responses almost in passing -- but by the time I was half way through the book these all began to meld together into a whole story. it grabs you.
Guilty pleasure. Gossip/name dropping heaven. Simple writing but amazingly addictive.
I am a huge Dunne fan . . . and even after all these years, the OJ trial was still interesting to read about. It's just amazing the name-dropping and the lives of the priviledged and the odd coincidences this man gets into. Fascinating - great "beach read" book.
Fantastic book. have read most of his books. This one is exceptional. Very well written and detailed.
This is the first Dunne novel I've read and to be honest, the OJ trial as a subject didn't thrill me. Neither did Dunne's constant name-dropping... but somehow the storytelling hooked me and by the end I was riveted... then the ending took me completely by surprise. Well done.
I'll admit I was fascinated by the OJ murder case at the time and completely agreed with Mr Dunnes' assessment of his guilt, but this is the worst piece of self promoting, name dropping drivel through which I have ever had the misfortune to slog. No wonder his brother Gregory can't stand him.
After I read this book, I wanted to know more about Dominck Dunne. I was however, very dissapointed in the ending. I felt that if it was a memior it should have stayed true. He is the true King of name droppers. I felt like a fly on the wall, eavesdropping on his conversations with the rich, famous, and powerful people of the world.
Gus Bailey a man with a moral compass that is remnant of old, whined and dined by the LA elite he does not succomb to being socially correct in the mist of the OJ saga. As a writer for Vanity Fair Magazine Gus had front row seats during the event of the century. With humor and candidness he lets the reader see how unhumane our country has become. How racially torn our country still is, how justice isn't about right or wrong but about glamour and bias. Hurrah,Hurrah for Dominick Dunne the voice on conscience that we so desprately need. Oh, by the way this is fiction....well kinda
I love the way the author relates the factual aspects of the trial, all the while doing what Dominick Dunne does best, mingling with the rich and famous. The multi-layered culture in Los Angeles, where the lives of film personalities, society figures and the average person often overlap, is portrayed with accuracy. In the guise of Augustus Bailey, it is less painful for Dominick Dunne to reveal his deepest feelings about the murder of his daughter and his frailties as a human being. This book is as much about the author's dealing with his past as it is about O. J. Simpson.