Maxxed Out
  • Maxxed Out
  • Maxxed Out

Maxxed Out

by David Collins
     
 

Just when we really need it, a scathingly funny novel that skewers the ego-driven, morally bankrupt world of The Big Deal

Billionaire Robert Maxx is a king in the world of real estate. Prestigious buildings bear his name, the press treats him like royalty, and beautiful women are thrilled to be seen on his arm. Ruthless, bullying,

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Overview

Just when we really need it, a scathingly funny novel that skewers the ego-driven, morally bankrupt world of The Big Deal

Billionaire Robert Maxx is a king in the world of real estate. Prestigious buildings bear his name, the press treats him like royalty, and beautiful women are thrilled to be seen on his arm. Ruthless, bullying, vengeful, and yet, at times, improbably endearing, Maxx both repels and fascinates.

For writer David Collins, things are not so rosy. His novels didn't sell. His marriage fell apart. Scrabbling for a livelihood, he's turned to ghostwriting. When he gets the gig to crank out Maxx's next bestseller, he regards the assignment as nothing more than an easy payday.

But something happens. The storyteller in Collins takes over, and he realizes that this isn't one more hack job. It may be his last chance to write something of real value, reclaim his battered self-respect, and win back the ex-wife he still loves.

Against the all-too-real background of a cratering economy and the end of easy money, things start to fall apart for Maxx. As it becomes clear that his mighty empire was built on lies, hucksterism, and dubious accounting, the stage is set for deadly conflict between a fallen idol desperate to conceal the truth and a writer obsessed with an inside story that only he can tell.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

This overpoweringly gimmicky faux memoir/biography from Collins recounts a ghostwriter's turbulent experience with a Donald Trumpesque celebrity real estate magnate. Robert Maxx, the Trump stand-in, is a salacious figure with plans to, among other things, buy Rockefeller Center and rename it after himself. Chronicling his dealings is David Collins, a failed novelist turned ghostwriter who gets an assignment to write a revelatory book that gets to the heart of Maxx. This, of course, is not so easy: the pay is low, and Maxx is a selfish bully who is roundly despised and, as one character remarks, "has no music" in his life. While Maxx's dealings become increasingly sleazy, Collins finds himself sidetracked by his interest in several women, among them his own ex-wife, his editor and the billionaire's vengeful ex-wife and his personal assistant. On the surface, this seems timely, but the sporadic references to the economic meltdown feel belatedly shoehorned in, while Maxx comes off as even more of a caricature than his real-life inspiration. However, there's enough outrageous scandal and over-the-top shenanigans to make this a juicy diversion for fans of The Apprentice. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061456190
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
04/28/2009
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt

Maxxed Out

Chapter One

I'm superstitious. I admit it. I have a lot of superstitions. Some of them are pretty standard; others might be all my own. Now and then I get a new one; I don't know how this happens. It just shows up one day, like a moth hole in a sweater. But, though new ones come, the old ones never go away. They just accumulate.

Most of the time I don't mind my superstitions. I actually sort of like them; they're like tiny warning signs that help me navigate the real and imagined dangers of the day. Sometimes, though, I wish my superstitions weren't there. It would be nice to believe that life and people are more reasonable than that. But life isn't, and people aren't, and that's just how it is.

On the day that set the stage for my association with Robert Maxx, I woke up at an unlucky time. Given my line of work, I rarely have to be anyplace special in the morning. So I seldom set an alarm clock. But, as the old saying goes, habits are the shackles of the free, and my habits shackle me plenty. Alarm clock or no, I almost always wake up between 7 and 7:30. That morning, I cracked an eye and the first thing I saw was 7:13.

I slammed my eyes shut quickly, but not so fast that I could kid myself that I hadn't seen the dreaded number. I lay in bed until I was sure that at least a full minute had passed, then I knocked wood to counteract the effect of having seen the inauspicious digits, and only then did I get up.

Considering the lousy start, the morning went okay. I made coffee, read the paper, pissed around with a little essay about the creative use of boredom. Then the phone rang. Before I answeredit, I looked down at the clock in the bottom corner of the computer screen. It was 10:13. What were the odds?

The call was from my agent, Paul Hannaford. I love Paul. We've been together for a dozen years, through thick and thin, though most of the thick part was a while ago. What I cherish and admire about Paul is his ability to live and function in a constant and unremitting state of unspoken conflict. At heart, my agent is a profound pessimist, a man of serene dejection whose worldly disillusionment is so thoroughly ingrained as to seem almost French. He knows deep down that most books won't sell, that reviewers will generally be invidious and snide, that publishers will often break promises. He accepts these things without umbrage or surprise. At the same time, in his role as a salesman, a peddler of goods, he has no choice but to be cheery, optimistic, upbeat, to do that whole Willy Loman thing complete with the smile and the shoeshine. He's very good at this, and I have no idea how he does it. His looks probably help. He's got sandy, reddish hair and a scattering of yachtsman's freckles, and while he must be in his early forties, he could pass for twenty-eight.

In any case, I looked away from the computer clock, knocked wood again, and said hello.

"David," Paul said, "got a minute? I just had an interesting call from Marcie Kanin over at Porter."

My ears perked up. I've known Paul long enough to understand that the word interesting in this context is his code for the possibility of money changing hands. It's not a usage I'd heard very often lately. "Talk to me," I said.

"She wanted to know if you're available. I played it coy, let her think you might be drowning in offers."

I said, "Maybe I would be if I had a better agent."

"You might be drowning. But it wouldn't be in offers. You know Marcie?"

I didn't, which was actually surprising. Publishing is a small village, and if you stick around awhile and don't get fired once too many times, you'll pretty much meet everybody, generally over lunches that are all the same. They start with rather stilted chitchat before looking at the menu, then move on to a main course of industry gossip and schadenfreude, which leads in due course to that deflating moment over demitasse when editor and writer gaze hopefully at each other and realize more or less simultaneously that the other has not brought a brilliant book idea to the table.

"Well, no matter," Paul said. "You'll like her. She's a grown-up and a survivor. And she just got into business with Robert Maxx." He put an almost salacious breathiness into the mention of the name, then let it hang suspended for a moment.

If I was supposed to be instantly impressed, I wasn't. "Robert Maxx? Oh, great. There's a prestige project. Musings of a fucking egomaniac parvenu with an infantile obsession about putting his name on buildings. It's like graffiti at a higher economic level."

"David," he said, "Robert Maxx's name recognition is right up there with the president's. He can get on Oprah with a phone call. Larry King begs him to appear."

"Okay. Big celebrity. But he does schmucky business books. Crap for middle managers and neo-yuppies. I don't want to do that. Get some hack from BusinessWeek."

"Marcie doesn't want just any hack. She wants a hack who can tell a story."

"Is that supposed to be flattering?"

"I've done some homework. Over the last twenty years, Maxx has published half a dozen books, each one with a different ghost. They've all been bestsellers, but every one has sold fewer copies than the last. What does that say to you?"

"For starters," I said, "it tells me he's either a real dick to work with or impossible to please."

"Probably both," Paul admitted. "But that's not the point. The point is that there's magic in his name. Always has been, always will be. But the straight business-book vein was tapped out years ago. Marcie wants this to be a different kind of book."

Maxxed Out. Copyright © by David Collins. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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