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Gin Lane

Gin Lane

by James Brady, Brady

No one chronicles the hilariously haughty world of the Hamptons better than Parade columnist and bestselling author James Brady. Now, in his second novel of the Hamptons, Brady invites you to take a stroll along Gin Lane, where name-dropping, celebrity spotting, and attempted murder heat up the glistening sands of New York's hottest summer


No one chronicles the hilariously haughty world of the Hamptons better than Parade columnist and bestselling author James Brady. Now, in his second novel of the Hamptons, Brady invites you to take a stroll along Gin Lane, where name-dropping, celebrity spotting, and attempted murder heat up the glistening sands of New York's hottest summer haunt.

Everyone from the Southampton's moneyed WASPs to the local church elders has their noses out of joint over the arrival of offensively irreverent morning DJ "Cowboy" Dils— and his buffoonish entourage of radio sidekicks— to the perfectly manicured and utterly intolerant Gin Lane. Loud, lewd, and out to ruffle more than a few feathers, Cowboy doesn't expect a block party in his honor, but he certainly doesn't anticipate several attempts on his life. When Parade reporter Beecher Stowe and his lovely partner Alix Dunraven step in to write the hottest story of the summer, their efforts are somewhat sidetracked by a prominent local wedding, a possible visit from the President, and the egregious antics of Cowboy & Co. Now Beecher and Alix are determined to get to the bottom of this sizable sand dune, leaving no shell unturned and no fishy motive unchecked.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Brady's latest goes down as easily as a tall vodka and tonic during an afternoon at the Bridgehampton polo tournament."—Neal Travis, New York Post

"If you delight in the rich patter of names dropping, add Gin Lane to the stack...Good fun."—Entertainment Weekly

"If you didn't spend last season in the Hamptons, consider this one-stop shopping for the high points."—Bazaar

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Beecher Stowe and Lady Alex Dunraven Novels Series
Product dimensions:
4.34(w) x 6.80(h) x 0.85(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Men who were always gloriously broke but
attached to the top girls ...

To write about and understand Gin Lane in Southampton, New York, it is helpful to have lived nearby so that you have at least a passing acquaintance with that rich and famous road and the breed of people who live there. And how this past spring they confronted and coped with what they saw as a threat to their place and their quality of life. It's a lively yarn, quite as colorful as anything in a full-blown and fleshed-out history of Gin Lane, and does credit to only a few of us. Since the cast of characters includes powerful folk who believe they pretty much run the country (and perhaps they do!), much of what happened there on Gin Lane in late May and June with the Southampton "Season" barely under way has been hushed up. No one really wanted it out and especially not the government, neither Southampton's nor Washington's. For most people the president's problems began with the running of the White House interns. But along Gin Lane months earlier, we knew how near he'd come to stumbling into an entirely distinct scandal not of his making; we'd seen evidence of a presidential skittishness none of us yet understood. Probably you've heard rumors, the snippets of truth, those partial explanations, the outright gossip: about how the president of the United States failed Tom and Daisy Buchanan and, for all he knew, might have broken their daughter's heart. And why the earl of Bute never got to dance at his son's wedding, depriving the old gent of "having a gallop aboutthe hardwood with a bridesmaid!" And grounds on which a celebrated fashion designer was arrested. And who very nearly got shot at Cowboy Dils's house and how A.J. Foyt was asked to save the Bridgehampton raceway and where Mandy Buchanan danced on tables and how the forty thousand honeybees died and why "Nipper" Gascoigne chided his boyhood chum "Fruity" Metcalfe and how Señorita de Playa's splendid pecs were deprived of kayaking on the Nile and why Wyseman Clagett was warning against El Niño and attempting to eat his own ear and just who it was sent the Marines ashore. As well as the role played by the Shinnecock Indians and those Argentino polo players and what it was got Women's Wear Daily on the case and why people were squashing lemons into their hair and wearing watches, on the wrong wrists and how Nurse Cavell rescued the Dalai Lama's ambassador-without-portfolio and the future of the shellfish hatchery and bad feelings over Magistrate Hobbes's unfortunate seizure and who borrowed Captain Bly's industrial-strength sunblock and why an apparently innocent tango ignited fistfights with the RAF and whether The Eel Lady predicted an early spring.

    I realize all this sounds pretty complicated. Maybe I better just tell you how my own good intentions foolishly got me pulled into those and related events along Gin Lane and who was involved and what really did go on this past spring in Southampton. As best I can remember ...

Further Lane, where my father and I live in East Hampton, is fourteen miles east of Southampton's famous Gin Lane.

    And along both of these brief and lovely ocean-front lanes people are forever debating just which of the two Hamptons is better, richer, a more desirable place to live and raise families and enjoy the good life. They also argue just which have been the truly great Seasons out here, the vintage summers no one who experienced them will ever forget.

    From one celebrated Hampton to the other is but a twenty-minute drive, an easy hour's bike ride along the Atlantic Ocean, and if you are fit, a half-day's stroll in the sun. For places that are so close, the two Hamptons are quite different in style. Book publisher John Sargent, a sophisticated and witty man who long ran Doubleday for Nelson and the family, once attempted in a merry moment to explain about the two villages: "If you're going to dinner in Southampton you wear a tie but no socks; and in East Hampton you wear socks and no tie."

    There may be something to that or no sense at all, but there are other, less superficial distinctions as well, I'm sure, and not being either a historian or a social scientist but simply a journalist, I will leave it there. Both Hamptons have their traditions, their accepted ways, their look, and the casual local snobberies that flourish with age along certain roads and at the more desirable addresses. That these snobberies are casual does not make them any less cruel and cutting. Gin and Further Lanes, behind their masking hedges and great, gated walls, possess a haunting beauty, each very lovely in its own distinctive way, and they are linked by a single, narrow road, by the ocean, by a strip of gorgeous beach.

    And by money.

    When you arrive there on Gin Lane, you find yourself on a narrow, somewhat claustrophobic road with one slim lane in each direction onto which hedges and walls and gates press close. And if you are fortunate, through the gates and thin places in the privet hedge and down the graveled drives, some of the drives so long and sinuous they are interrupted for safety by speed bumps, you may even glimpse the ocean. It is always there, just beyond the great houses and tennis courts and marble pools and rich, rolled and sloping, darkly grassy lawns. But in these precincts, an Atlantic view is exclusively purchased, and even the sand looks expensive. The people along Gin Lane are rich as well, always have been, I guess.

    Through the years, and even today, it has been a gorgeous place. Though over cocktails or after golf or inhaling a surely unnecessary final midnight brandy, the subject comes up and the proposition debated by the modernists and those who insist on favoring "the old days": Which really were Gin Lane's best years? Which the best times? The top crowds? The prettiest women? The most lavish parties? The quintessential Southampton Season? Certain glorious years are nominated, specific moments are recalled, various men and women mentioned, this great house or that remembered and eulogized, a road race or a polo match or historic carouse described in exquisite if antique detail, a particularly splendid lawn party praised or champagne breakfast cited. And, inevitably, during these genial exchanges there will be someone who nominates Ten bis Gin Lane (the original Number Ten was washed away in the "great" hurricane of '38, thus justifying the label "bis" on its successor), and others will nod and half smile in amiable memory, and Number Ten bis will get its share of votes as a Gin Lane address ever to be remembered.

    I'm from an old Hamptons family (Beecher Stowe being a familiar name out here), but having been born in France, and for a time working as a foreign correspondent, I'm hardly the fellow to make such judgments, and prefer listening to those who claim to know. Maybe, connoisseurs say, of all the good times there ever were along Gin Lane, some of the best came right after the war, from '46 on; 1946 I mean, since in the Hamptons the good times have been going on for three centuries (of course, bad times occasionally punctuated the good, though these are rarely mentioned). But in 1946 and 1947 the world was at last out of uniform, back home, and at play. Then began the summers when Angier Duke and his brother Tony came home from the war to Gin Lane. Ever since, there've been Dukes at Carious places here and there along the lane, these days at Wyndcote Farm, but at that time they had their house at Ten bis Gin Lane that people, including the Dukes themselves, good-naturedly and with youthful, Self-deprecating wit, labeled "the Duke Box." From Memorial Day through Labor Day, what Southampton Calls the Season, the house was never empty.

    As an agreeable chum of Tony and Luly Duke (Luly is Tony's wife, and you probably know the man I mean) remembers the house even now, half a century later: "It was always filled with pretty girls, out from Manhattan, and White Russians, dashing fellows who worked in PR or sold expensive fragrances to Saks and Bergdorf or were trying to get jobs with E. F. Hutton or Merrill Lynch, plus a few clever men like Serge Obolensky (a prince who had actually served and knew the tsar!) and his comrades Count Vava and one Sasha, a Guards officer whose last name none but Sasha could pronounce, and then but marginally, as well as other men who were always gloriously broke but attached to the top girls in a time when the really top girls looked better than women ever had. Remember? There was Audrey the Conover Girl and Faye the Powers Girl and, in from Hollywood, a couple of Goldwyn Girls called Mona and Jill A French lounge pianist named Jacques Frey, invariably addressed by the Goldwyn Girls as `Monsieur Pierre,' dropped by in June and stayed the summer, reminiscent of poor Gatsby's `Mr. Klipspringer,' camping out there in the sunroom playing piano, the show tunes everyone could sing and to which anyone could dance, the tall windows opened to lawns and sprawling patios and dunes and the beach beyond and the ocean's surf, so there was music everywhere, indoors and out, and the laughter and voices of the girls as well ..."

    Tony and Angier Duke had enjoyed splendid wars, and so had many of their friends, including the Russians (they were OSS mostly and had been parachuted into dicey places where they did deadly things), and now all of them felt obliged thoroughly to enjoy the peace. Which they did from the end of May to early September, when, in the week following Labor Day, the Southampton house was tidied up and shuttered and they all, Russians and girls and Monsieur Pierre, plus Count Vava and Prince Obolensky, and various Duke boys, returned to Manhattan, simply moving the party from Gin Lane to El Morocco and the Stork.

    It was that house, that "gentleman's estate" (in the stuffy, pretentious phrasing of real estate advertisements), which Leicester "Cowboy" Dils bought for $12 million a year or two back and in which he briefly, and flamboyantly, lived until what happened this past spring, at the very start of yet another Southampton Season. Until then, Cowboy had been enjoying himself and delighting his friends, less elegantly but every bit as fully as the Dukes did so long ago, even while scoffed at by his "betters," men who clucked at the very idea of their new neighbor. While the Duke boys' parties inspired rhapsodies of memory half a century later, Dils's contemporary gatherings invited privileged, local Scorn.

    "Cowboy Dils on Gin Lane? Preposterous." And probably it was. Yet who was there to tell a wealthy American such as Dils that he couldn't buy this piece of property or that and live wherever he chose? Even if he did entertain odd friends and loudly. And was forever threatening to "have a fistfight" with someone. How strangely soothing and old-fashioned the phrase "I want to have a fistfight with you!"

    It occurred to the few of us who actually liked him that with Dils, even his hostilities were comfortable and homespun.

    I mentioned the differences between East Hampton and Southampton, the distinctions between our Further Lane and their Gin Lane; mentioned as well the links they share: the narrow road, the lovely beach, the ocean on which both front, and the money.

    Cowboy Dils understood, the money part, I guess, but not much else about the Hamptons or the Season. He was a queer duck with all the Usual tics and neuroses, but he had remained very much the westerner, and had a westerner's open, easy, joshing ways. Where he came from, traditions began a few decades back and a hundred years was a longtime; here in the East we counted by centuries. There are local people who can count back twelve generations of Hamptons residence, to the 1660s, when Connecticut still owned some of the Hamptons. And from the very moment he moved in, much of what Gin Lane was and stood for eluded Dils. Despite this, there were in Cowboy's time glorious days and nights at his mansion at Ten bis. "Good Gawd A-mighty!" he cried in considerable if primitive exasperation. "I was only trying to make people happy."

    It was what Cowboy Dils didn't understand about the place and its traditions that in the end drove him from Gin Lane and emptied that wonderful house which used to be filled with music and laughter and the top girls and dashing Russians, the place at Ten bis Gin Lane they once called the Duke Box.

Excerpted from Gin Lane by James Brady. Copyright © 1998 by James Brady. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Meet the Author

James Brady is the author of Further Lane. His previous novels include Fashion Show and Paris One. He is also the author of The Coldest War, a critically acclaimed memoir of Korea. His weekly columns for Advertising Age and Parade magazines were considered must-reads by millions. He lived in Manhattan and on Further Lane in East Hampton, New York.

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