Too Much Money

Too Much Money

by Dominick Dunne


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The last two years have been monstrously unpleasant for high-society journalist Gus Bailey. When he falls for a fake story and implicates a powerful congressman in some rather nasty business on a radio program, Gus becomes embroiled in a slander suit. The stress makes it difficult for him to focus on his next novel, which is based on the suspicious death of billionaire Konstantin Zacharias. The convicted murderer is behind bars, but Gus is not convinced that justice was served. There are too many unanswered questions, and Konstantin’s hot-tempered widow will do anything to conceal the truth.

Featuring favorite characters and the affluent world Dunne first introduced in People Like Us, Too Much Money is a mischievous, compulsively readable tale by the most brilliant society chronicler of our time—the man who knew all the secrets and wasn’t afraid to share them.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345464101
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/28/2010
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 516,660
Product dimensions: 15.08(w) x 11.38(h) x 0.61(d)

About the Author

Dominick Dunne was the author of five bestselling novels, two collections of essays, and The Way We Lived Then, a memoir with photographs.  He had been a special correspondent for Vanity Fair for twenty-five years, and the host of the television series Dominick Dunne's Power, Privilege, and Justice. He passed away in 2009 after completing Too Much Money.

Read an Excerpt

IT WAS EASTER SUNDAY. LIL ALTEMUS, THE OLD guard New York society figure, was having her annual Easter luncheon party at her vast Fifth Avenue apartment overlooking Central Park. In times to come, during her financial difficulties, Lil spoke of her Easter lunch as her Farewell to Fifth Avenue party. All her Van Degan relatives, several of whom she didn’t like, and some of her closest friends, like Matilda Clarke and Rosalie Paget and Kay Kay Somerset, whom she’d known all her life, were present. “We all went to Farmington, and we all came out the same year at the Junior Assembly, and we were all bridesmaids in each other’s first weddings,” Lil said about them every year in her toast.
The star guest at the Easter luncheon was “that perfect darling,” as Lil always called Adele Harcourt, who was almost a hundred and five and was still going about in social life. “Adele was such a close friend of Mummy’s,” said Lil, who was herself seventy-five, whenever she spoke about the revered Adele Harcourt. “We think of her as practically family.” Adele was celebrated for having given two hundred million dollars to the city of New York. She made appearances in slums to watch the improvements her donations made possible. She always wore pearls and furs on these excursions to building sites. “That’s how they want me to dress,” she said to Lil on occasion. She was used to being cheered by the crowd and enjoyed her celebrity enormously.
There was also a small group of what Lil called her strays. Gus Bailey, a writer for Park Avenue magazine, used to argue that he was more than a stray. They had a curious friendship.
Lil and Gus had met years earlier at the Kurt von Rautbord attempted-murder trial in Newport, Rhode Island, which Gus had covered for Park Avenue magazine. Lil, as the best friend of the comatose heiress, Antonia von Rautbord, ever since they were roommates at Farmington, was a witness for the prosecution. Gus was impressed at how unafraid Lil was on the stand when she was cross-examined by a ruthless defense attorney of national reputation.
During a break, he introduced himself to her in the hallway outside the courtroom in Newport, after she had strongly disputed the allegations made by Kurt von Rautbord’s lawyer about Antonia’s alcoholism.
“You were gutsy up there on the stand,” said Gus. “Some people get so terrified, they cry.”
“Wasn’t he awful, that lawyer? So rude. Just who does he think he is, please? I certainly wasn’t going to allow Kurt von Rautbord to say all those dreadful and deceitful things about poor sweet Antonia after he lived off her money all those years,” answered Lil. “Antonia even paid his club dues at the Butterfield, forgodssake.”
It was Lil who introduced Gus to Marina and Fritz, Antonia’s grown children from her first marriage to a Hungarian prince, with whom he became friends. It was also Lil who arranged for Gus to spend the night in the Newport mansion where the attempted murder had taken place.
Gus often said that if Lil Altemus hadn’t been born so rich and married so rich, she could have been a very good detective. Lil was always thrilled when Gus said that about her in front of others. She sometimes bragged that he discussed all the murder cases he covered around the world with her. In fact, there were those who said that Lil Altemus was Gus Bailey’s source for one of his most successful books, about the shooting of banking heir Billy Grenville at the hands of his wife, Ann.
On this Easter Sunday, however, Lil’s thoughts were concerned with her lunch party.
“We’re twenty-four in all. I’ve put you next to Adele Harcourt, Gus,” said Lil, walking around her beautifully set table, checking place cards with the expertise of a great hostess. Gus had used Lil as a character in one of his society novels, Our Own Kind, and, unlike others in New York society, she had not taken offense, nor had she stopped speaking to him, as so many had. However, she did have one quibble with her character, as Gus wrote her. She insisted every time it came up that she was very definitely not the one who had said, “Better dead than Mrs. Fayed” the day after Princess Diana was killed in the automobile accident with her lover, the very rich Dodi Fayed, in the Alma Tunnel in Paris, as Gus had quoted her as saying. She had, of course, said it.
“Adele adores meeting writers. Now, you must remember to speak up when you talk to her. She doesn’t hear well, and she hates wearing the hearing aid. She’s inclined to repeat herself a bit, but she’s divine, simply divine. You know, she was my mother’s best friend. They even worked at Vogue together back in the thirties. She’s going to be a hundred and five on her next birthday, bless her heart, and she still goes out nearly every night of the week, all dressed up and covered with jewels.”
“I’ve heard through the grapevine that it’s your birthday too, Lil,” said Gus, teasing his old friend a bit. Lil also needed a hearing aid, but Gus wasn’t about to go that far with her, as she might get upset.
“Yes, but we won’t speak about that, please.” She mouthed but did not speak the word seventy, at the same time rolling her eyes at the ancientness of the decade she was entering.
“You’d never know it,” said Gus, although he knew for a fact she was seventy-five, the same age as Antonia von Rautbord, who was still in a coma.
“You’re so sweet, Gus,” said Lil. “How are things coming along on that ridiculous lawsuit of yours?”
“Don’t minimize it to me,” said Gus. “It’s not ridiculous at all. I’m living it. It is time-consuming, expensive, and extremely nerve-racking, and I hate to talk about it.”
“I can’t imagine that awful man suing you,” said Lil.
“The terrible thing is that it’s my own fault. I fell hook, line, and sinker for a fake story. I honestly thought I had the scoop of my career, and I made the fatal mistake of repeating it on a radio show of no importance, and the consequences have been dire. But let’s not speak about Kyle Cramden, or his terrifying lawyer. Even the mention of his name puts me into a despairing mood.”
“Poor darling Gus,” said Lil.
“I went to communion at Easter Mass this morning, a rare event for me, and prayed that something catastrophic, like a fatal auto accident, would happen to him.”
“You didn’t!” said Lil, screeching with laughter.
“No, I didn’t, but I thought of it. I don’t see a place card for Justine,” said Gus.
He had listened while Lil spoke, but at the same time he was discreetly taking in the seating arrangement at the table. It was this kind of attention to the finer points that allowed him to write the articles that everyone talked about for Park Avenue. He couldn’t turn it off. He was always searching for more details to round out a story—or, even better, the kinds of details that might start a new one.
“She’s not coming,” said Lil. “Justine doesn’t like you, Gus.”
“I know. I don’t like her, either,” said Gus.
“She thinks she was a character in one of your books.”
“She was.”
“She thinks you went to Bernie Slatkin for information after the divorce, and he told you things.”
“She’s wrong. I never discussed anything with Justine’s ex-husband. I wouldn’t put Bernie Slatkin in that position. He’s a friend of mine.”
“She thinks you did.”
“That’s her problem,” said Gus, shrugging. “Surely, I’m not the reason she’s not coming today.”
“No, of course not. She moved to Paris with her brand-new husband number three, Henri de Courcy, who paints fashionable ladies. Actually, he’s quite good. He wanted to paint me, but I said no, thank you very much, I’m much too old to be painted, and besides, Cecil Beaton painted me years and years ago, and so did Vidal-Quadras one winter in Palm Beach, and what was his name who was so divine looking who did that wonderful painting of Babe Paley?”
“René Bouché?” said Gus.
“Oh, yes. René Bouché. He was such a flirt. I can barely remember anyone’s name anymore, but René painted me, too, and that’s quite enough paintings for this old lady.”
Gus studied his friend as she moved nervously around the room, tweaking and straightening, trying to ensure perfection. Lil Altemus was tall and aristocratic. Most of her friends described her as handsome but not beautiful. Gus could see why a painter would be inclined to want her as his subject. There was something almost royal about her. She dressed in the manner of grand ladies of a certain age who once shopped from Miss Hughes at Bergdorf’s. Her clothes were both conservative and expensive, mostly in blue and black shades. As Gus looked more closely, he noticed a degree of melancholy in her expression.
“Isn’t this supposed to be your last party in this apartment?” he asked.
“Yes, that’s why it’s so sad Justine’s not here. She and Hubie literally grew up in this apartment. I’ve lived here almost forty-five years. Hubie’s dead, and Justine lives in Paris. I said to Justine on the phone last week, ‘Why don’t you fly over for a couple of days? It’s the last party in the apartment, and you grew up here.”
“I told her everyone would love to see my granddaughter, Cordelia, and I even suggested they could drive up to Farmington and register Cordelia for two years from now. After all, my mother went to Farmington; I went to Farmington; Justine went to Farmington; and now Cordelia’s going to go to Farmington. I tell you, that granddaughter of mine is simply divine. I can’t wait for her to move back to New York, where she belongs. Of course, it seems there’s no changing Justine’s mind. She says she doesn’t want to be away from Henri, but I say it’s not as if she can’t afford a quick trip over and back. After all, she got all of the Altemus money when her father died last year.”
Lil Altemus stopped fiddling with the table, rested her hands on the back of one of the twenty-four Chippendale chairs, and sighed, looking around the room, her eyes welling up with nostalgia.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"The only person writing about high society from inside the aquarium."   —Tina Brown

"Readers mourned Dunne's passing in August 2009, bereft at the thought of life without his keen novels and incisive Vanity Fair profiles...But Dunne grants us one more good read...[his] glittering high-society satire harbors sorrow at its heart as [his] burdened hero ponders his secrets and regrets."—Booklist

"On full display here, Dunne's jaded eye for the foibles of the ultraspoiled, his stylish wit and eavesdropper's ear—they are among the many reasons he is sorely missed."—Kirkus Reviews

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Too Much Money 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 47 reviews.
emmi331 More than 1 year ago
I've never quite understood Mr. Dunne's obsession with the denizens of New York City's high society. This is basically a repeat of his earlier books....the reader keeps company for 275 pages with the morally challenged and undeservedly wealthy who have little to do but go from one dinner party, lunch, or charity gala to another. Once at these venues, they talk endlessly about other dinner parties, lunches, etc. and who did or said what to whom. People with infantile names like Dinkie, Dodo, Kay Kay, Winkie, and Figgy (I am not making this up) hold vapid conversations with all the depth of a parking-lot puddle. And this is what the entire book is about - empty-headed nitwits and their hangers-on yakking about each other, celebrating their own social status, and doing anything to hang on to it. Frankly, I don't know why anyone would want to attain these "heights" of society, where the air is less rarified than rancid. I'd be kicking and screaming to get out. If the author meant this to be a send-up or skewering of these self-absorbed folk, it doesn't happen - this reader was just weary of their company by the end of the book.
KenCady More than 1 year ago
Dominick Dunne's last book could have been a hale farewell, but, at least in my opinion, he should have left well enough alone. A Roman a clef can be loads of fun when done well, but here I see a rush job that gave little thought to the reader. Sure, he skewers here and there, but little of it resonates. It can be easy to poke fun at the rich, so the measure of a good writer is the one who refines it to an art, where the skewering has a sizzle to it that the average writer can't attain. Dunne has shown that he can do it, why else so many ruffled feathers at his previous books? Here, it just doesn't seem that his heart was in it. Too Much Money is formulaic and trite. Sorry to say.
HeidiDew More than 1 year ago
Dominick Dunne died in 2009. He left us with his last book, "Too Much Money". If you're a fan of Nick Dunne's writing, you'll be happy to re-meet Gus Bailey and his cast of wealthy misbehaving characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked the references to old-school social climbing but one character blended into another. Too much same-old/same-old and did not measure up to Dominick Dunne's previous books.
etxgardener on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved Dominick Dunne and his monthy diary was always the first thing I read when I received my copy of Vanity Fair magazine. It's been a while since we've had a novel from him, so it was a delight to pick this up & find all my old friends fom his other novels of society manners - Lil Altemus, Adele Harcourt, & Elias & Ruby Renthal. All of Dunne's novels are roman a clef & this one is especially transparent, especially if one has been following Dunne's obsessions in his magazine columns.This is not deep reading. Instead it's like diving into a giant box of excellent chocolate and not stopping until every last piece has been eaten. Sadly Dunne has gone to his great reward, so this will be the last of his highly enjoyable novels. In his memory I may go back and read all his earlier ones over again.
saratoga99 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As I read Dominick Dunne¿s last literary gift to us, Shakespeare¿s phrase from HAMLET, lightly and insistently scampered through my mind. An appropriate farewell, I thought, to Dunne¿s veiled insights into the rich, infamous, and legendary. Who better than Shakespeare to bid, Adieu¿¿"...Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellowof infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hathborne me on his back a thousand times; and now, howabhorred in my imagination it is! my gorge rims atit. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I knownot how oft. Where be your gibes now? yourgambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment,that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not onenow, to mock your own grinning? quite chap-fallen?Now get you to my lady's chamber, and tell her, lether paint an inch thick, to this favour she mustcome; make her laugh at that..."Thank you, Mr. Dunne. We will miss you.
Sararush on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm glad that Dunne found the time while fighting cancer to put together this last novel. It brings back a few favorites who've exploits I've come to relish in previous Dunne works: Gus Bailey, the thinly veiled self portiture of Dunne who is being sued for slander, Elias and Ruby Renthal, the fility rich couple who are again trying to buy their way into the New York high society after Elias' release from prison, and Lil VanDegan, a high society snob humbled by the forced down sizing of her life style. There are also some newbies to the scene that I didn't recognize: Adison Kent, a promiscus gay "walker" who gets access to society on the arms of fashionable women and Perla Zacharias, a women who Gus is writing about after the suspicious death of her husband. Dunne doesn't try very hard to pull all of these stories together especially during the first half of the novel where beyong attending the same parties the characters do not interact much at all. But he does put in a lot of treats for his long time fans, and gets a lot off of his chest. Too Much Money feels likes an extended goodbye. I, for one, will be whole heartedly disapointed that I will never be able to delve into a fresh Dunne novel. Please note that I "read" the audio version so please forgive the misspelling of any names.
Kellyannbrown on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Dunne's last book, this one is a zinger. I'm not sure I recognize all the people (they would be crushed). I enjoyed the time I spent with the crowd that exists in higher ether. They squabble, fart, go to and get out of prison (excuse me, a facility), have parties, take lovers, write letters, die and have funerals. It was a fast read.
photomarg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Typical Dominick Dunne society novel, with thinly-disguised characters drawn from real life. A little bittersweet, as this is his last novel and the "autobiographical" narrator deals with end-of-life issues also. An enjoyable, light read and I'll miss having new ones occasionally.
Fernandame on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Audiobook - A book about the socialites didn't enjoy it.
herschelian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Disappointing. I've always enjoyed Dominick Dunne's books but this one just wasn' t up to scratch. Maybe because he was battling cancer when he wrote it, maybe because whatever the manuscript he left behind had not been honed enough, we'll never know. I certainly think he was ill-served by his editor and publisher. The repetitive descriptions about the characters became embarrassing, just left in to pad out the text I suspect - in some cases whole phrases or sentences were repeated. If this is the only book by DD you've ever read, don't give up on him, try one of his others - The Two Mrs Grenvilles is a cracker.
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harstan More than 1 year ago
Park Avenue magazine gossip columnist Augustus "Gus" Bailey knows better than to open one's mouth on an unfinished story, but he does on the radio. Gus accuses Congressman Kyle Cramden in the disappearance of his intern. Outraged, Cramden sues Gus for slandering him and demands $11 million. An octogenarian, Gus fears his big mouth will leave his family with nothing when he dies. He turns to his other occupation, a novelist writing Infamous Lady based on a real homicide. While someone has been convicted of murdering wealthy banker Konstantin Zacharias who suffered from ALS in an arson fire at his Biarritz home, his beautiful widow Perla was never considered a person of interest by the cops. Gus' inquiry bothers Perla who inherited a fortune so has become too big to fail at annihilating others. Rather than litigation, Perla uses amoral tactics to destroy Gus. The fascination in this entertaining novel is Dominick Dunn's lampooning his other vocation as a gossip crime columnist having no real meaning especially when defending your life at the heavenly weighing station (kudos to Albert Brooks). Although the exaggerated portrayals of the key characters are over the top of the Empire State Building and adversely impact the extremely thin plot, fans of the late author's column will enjoy the hyperbole as Mr. Dunne skewers the rich and famous. Harriet Klausner
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