Present Value is a really good story…and much more. It’s a trove of useful information about the law, the economy, and Wall Street, with intriguing insights into some of the flimsy threads of today’s culture and the sturdier values that can redeem it. Willett’s intelligence, sense of humor and craftsmanship are even more impressive.” -Mario Cuomo
“Out of nowhere, this novel grabbed me by the throat and wouldn't let go until I finished. It takes you into boardrooms and bedrooms, it explores the post-9/11 psyche, the culture of business, pokes below the surface of a "perfect" marriage, and provides a comic description of the noisome Blackberry culture that leaves us staring at the tops of people's heads. Sabin Willett has the eye of a fine satirist, and the fluid writing style of a Tom Wolfe.” -Ken Auletta
“If you love to hate lawyers, psychotherapists, political correctness, suburban oppressiveness, Blackberrys, CEOs, and/or CFOs; if you have a taste for tales of corporate intrigue told from the inside out; or if you enjoy dead-on 21st century comedies of manners, then Present Value is your book. “- Kurt Andersen, author of Turn of the Century
Willett (The Betrayal; The Deal) offers a satiric portrait of suburban privilege and privation in the new millennium. Fritz Brubaker is an executive at Playtime, a Fortune 100 toy company; his wife, Linda, is a successful corporate attorney. Armed with Ivy League degrees and with their two children in tow, they zip through the smartest neighborhoods in the smartest vehicles, tethered to one another and the world through cell phones, beepers and, especially, Blackberry PDAs. But life veers off its smooth, comfy road when Playtime's stock value plummets, and Fritz is arrested for insider trading. Linda, who has been having an affair with one of her firm's partners (and discussing it with her therapist, Dr. Schadenfrau, who really couldn't care less), attempts to understand the change in Fritz. Always somewhat indolent, he now seems almost malevolently perverse: he demands she turn off her Blackberry while they're talking, for example, and questions the assumed values of their lives. Then Linda is forced to take a leave of absence and the wolves start howling around the door; soon Fritz is on his way to prison while the lawyers, accountants and even the U.S. Senate grapple with Playtime's financial disaster. Willett's detailed knowledge of legal and financial machinations is complemented by his snappy, fresh prose style, his sharp wit and his ability to draw compelling characters (even when they're rather despicable). It's a clever sendup of striving citizens, and in the end, a morality tale, as the man who thinks he's lost everything discovers that perhaps he's won. (Sept.) Forecast: The McMansion pictured on the book's jacket neatly sums up the world satirized within. Those still in recovery from the dotcom crash will find Willett's novel timely and even reassuring. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
A touch reminiscent of Tom Wolfe's Bonfires of the Vanities, this novel more lightly depicts the unraveling and recovery of an affluent Wellesley, MA, family and delightfully skewers today's social and business mores. Fritz Brubaker, a handsome, easygoing, honest, and somewhat laconic toy company executive is married to the gorgeous and supremely capable Linda, whose personal ambitions have driven her to a million-dollar-a-year partnership in a Boston law firm. This golden couple was already having communication and marital problems when Fritz is unaccountably hauled off by the FBI for insider trading. Bit by torturous bit, their world collapses: the company's stock slides precipitously, creditors come calling, bankruptcy looms, Fritz takes the rap, Linda's firm finds her services unnecessary, their teenaged children become more reclusive, and, horror of horrors, they are forced to move from their McMansion to a middle-class home. In a definite change of pace from his previous thrillers (The Deal; The Betrayal), Willett uses sharp dialog to capture voices of all ages and both genders and incisively describes the complex machinations that occur in the world of corporate finance. Highly amusing and irreverent, though at times a tad overwritten, this is a swift, good read and highly recommended for all fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/03.]-Sheila Riley, Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, DC Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
In an ambitious satire of post-9/11 America, the author of two previous legal thrillers (The Betrayal, 1998, etc.) manages to skewer our financial, political and social institutions with vicious glee while offering a nuanced portrait of his tragicomic hero (and supporting heroines). Everything comes easily to handsome, laid-back Fritz Brubaker: beautiful wife, kids in private school, big house in fancy Boston suburb. Fritz cares more about skiing and sailing than about his job as Assistant Comptroller to the corporate conglomerate Playtime. But complaisance goeth before a fall. Playtime has been fudging its profit numbers and is headed for an Enron-style disaster for which no one in the company is willing to take responsibility. Fritz's wife Linda, a high-powered, hardworking lawyer for whom nothing comes easily, has begun an affair with a fellow law partner out of exasperation with happy-go-lucky Fritz. Fritz's spoiled son is having "issues" at his progressive private school. When a struggling stockbroker traces a short placed on Playtime to one Phineas Brubaker and sets off a selling frenzy, Fritz is arrested for insider trading. An aging Falstaffian senator, smarting over being snubbed by the President, who used to be his drinking buddy, gets wind of Playtime's corporate shenanigans and calls for an investigation. Fritz's testimony speeds both the senator's and Playtime's demise. Fritz's own downfall and redemption (no reader will believe for a second that he committed the crime for which he serves his country-club-prison term) is set within the context of periodic flashbacks to his Econ. 101 class, where his professor devotes the semester to answering the question "What is value?"Full of moral outrage, Willett takes jabs at everything and everyone. Lawyers-Willett himself is one-and corporate CEOs get it the worst. Yet most of the human targets here are more foolish than evil. The one thoroughly unsympathetic villain is the e-mail device, the Blackberry. It gets its just reward. Remarkable: hilariously nasty, morally driven, sweetly romantic. Poor Linda: Fritz is irresistible. Agents: Owen Laster, Stephanie Cabot/William Morris