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Junk combines a satirical send-up of a typical investment bank with elements of a fast-paced thriller. While the narrative action is riveting, Goodwin's characterizations and descriptive writing attain the level of serious literary fiction.
Posted October 9, 2003
Michael Goodwin¿s Junk is a brilliant novel. A major publishing house should have picked it up; perhaps soon it may be. It would make a very good movie. Junk is the best novel about Wall Street, sex, international espionage, murder, Harlem hoodlums, and the tomfoolery of institutional junk bond trading and mysterious hedge fund operators since Thomas Wolfe¿s Bonfire of the Vanities. Most important, the book is fun. Often funny. Frequently outlandish. The plot is surprising when it needs to be. Of course the book¿s characters are more charactures than real people, and the entire project may be regarded as an extended cliché, but it is a cliché that works. And this book works because Goodwin himself is a fresh, original thinker with real writing skills and perfect word choice. You are dealing, here, with a first rate mind. His overachieving Jewish saleswoman, his red-necked, Southern bond-daddy, his bad, black drug dealers, and the middle-class black hero of the book all speak to us in a distinctive language that we recognize as real. Everything rings true. The action sections move quickly, the sexy scenes are tantalizingly slow. The final showdown scene is as preposterously spectacular as anything you¿ve ever seen from Indiana Jones, Clint Eastwood, Sylvester Stallone, or California¿s new governor. Happily, at the end of the book we get the conclusion we are all hoping for. Although Goodwin may never have attended a writers¿ workshop (thank heaven), he is a highly skilled craftsman. Each chapter is thoughtfully organized and carefully edited. He refuses to ramble. He is never open-ended or inconclusive. His style recalls the robustness of Clay Felker¿s New York Herald Tribune magazine section and the early years of New York magazine, rather than the self-absorbed thumb sucking of the last decade¿s New Yorker. If Esquire¿s editors were paying attention, they would have picked up chapters of this book; Goodwin is what the old Esquire used to be: no nonsense writing from the likes of Mailer, Talese, Salinger, and even Hemingway. The first readers of this book are likely to be insiders, those who know Goodwin and are in the business he writes about. Goodwin himself is a first rate junk bond salesman¿reasonably well-known in the business--and his characters are often real people Goodwin has worked with¿their names are changed ever so slightly. But Goodwin knows about many more things than bond trading, and this book is proof of it. Anyone with a sense of humor and an interest in city life will love this book. Hopefully, stores will be stocking it soon. Wight Martindale, Jr.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.