Thursday, August 17, 2017

Blood and Money: The Classic True Story of Murder, Passion, and Power, by Thomas Thompson

Blood and Money: The Classic True Story of Murder, Passion, and Power, by Thomas Thompson (1976), proves that it’s possible to have too much money.  The main figure at the novel’s center, the dermatologist John Hill, devotes himself to having a wonderful life—a beautiful wife, successful practice, a life devoted to music.  His selfishness and vacuity are appalling.  While he allows his wife a small allowance with which to run their household, he spends money on whatever he wants.  He wants the most lavish music studio in the western world.  He lacks any sense of self-scrutiny and instead is apparently able to justify his every action, including the selfish ways in which he spends money, his sudden abandonment of his first wife, his easy return to her.  He’s almost a kind of robot who goes through the motions of the life he lives without any awareness of their meaning. His wife is a pampered only child of a powerful, wealthy father who manipulates and finances every aspect of her life and her husband’s.  When he convinces himself that her husband allowed her to die, either through neglect or deliberate poisoning, he devotes himself to seeing him prosecuted.  When a trial results in a mistrial, he pays to have his son-in-law killed.  Through connections with powerful people in the city, and through his own machinations, he avoids prosecution, even though local police are convinced he’s guilty. 

The main figures in this book would fit comfortably into any number of reality shows.  They’re vapid walking embarrassments.  Oblivious to the world that begins just beyond the limits of their wealth and power and personal desires, they flap, doodle, and meander about like soulless human simulacra. Blood and Money is an example of the kind of investigative literary journalism that resulted in books like Capote’s In Cold Blood and Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song.  Despite its fascination with its characters and the prodigious research that went into its making, Blood and Money lacks the human and cultural insights of those works.

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