Sunday, July 1, 2007

Todd Buchholz's "The Castro Gene"

Todd Buchholz is a former director of economic policy at the White House and a managing partner of the legendary $15 billion Tiger hedge fund. He is a frequent commentator on ABC News, PBS and CNBC and has advised such leading companies as Microsoft, Merrill Lynch, IBM and Toyota.

Buchholz won the Allyn Young Teaching Prize at Harvard, and holds advanced degrees in economics and law from Cambridge and Harvard. He is the bestselling author of several non-fiction books.

The Castro Gene
is his first work of fiction; he applied the "Page 99 Test" to it and reported the following:
I flipped open The Castro Gene and was immediately struck with good news and bad news. The good news? Page 99 launches a new chapter and takes up only half a page! Great, this will be a short test. The bad news? Damn, it looks like an advertisement for Donald Trump, mentioning Trump Towers several times. But the comb-over king is not paying me a placement fee!

Beyond those first impressions, page 99 does neatly sketch out Luke Braden’s big move uptown, out of his “dumpy basement apartment,” with its “shaky aluminum floor lamp, with its dim forty-watt bulb….” As I reread the passage I heard in my head the rollicking gospel theme song from The Jeffersons TV show: “We’re moving on up … to a dee-luxe apartment in the sky-aye-aye.”

Page 99 gives Luke his first hint that he’s being manipulated, a marionette for the billionaire hedge fund mogul, Paul Tremont. Luke didn’t even know he was moving uptown to a luxurious new high-rise until he opened his creaky front door and saw his answering machine blinking:

The first message was from Tremont’s secretary: “Luke, Mr. Tremont asked me to arrange your move to the Trump International Towers…Unless you call me by seven P.M. tonight, the movers will be there tomorrow morning at ten. They’ll do all the packing—

What? Luke looked at his clock. Shit. Ten thirty P.M.

Luke is stepping onto a ride he cannot control. Hell, he’s being swept onto the ride. Once you let other people pack up the things in your apartment, what is next? I’ve never even let my wife pack my overnight bag. Would I let strangers pack up my whole apartment? Will Luke ever be able to resist the flight to luxury? Who would? He looks down “at the peeling, yellowed linoleum floor in the four by six foot corner the landlord called a kitchen. He pictured the Trump building with its lavish restaurants, swimming pool, and lobby filled with beautiful women, rather than the triple-tatooed, quintuple pierced chicks who meandered through the West Village.”

I confess I flipped over to page 100 and was reminded that Luke suddenly rebels. He grabs a scrap of paper and scribbles: “Hey Movers! Leave everything. Move nothing.” He taped a $50 bill to the note.

Luke desperately wants to move uptown, but on his own terms. There’s a fight ahead. A marionette can’t choose which string to cut.
Visit Todd Buchholz's website and read more about The Castro Gene at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue