“Skin in the Game”
Author: R.P. Finch
Publisher: Livingston Press
Price: $18.95 (Cloth)
The Livingston Press of West Alabama continues to publish unusual, off-beat fiction. “Skin in the Game” is a debut novel by R.P. Finch, who is himself a bit unusual. Finch holds a doctorate in philosophy from Duke University and a doctor of jurisprudence from UNC Chapel Hill. After practicing law in Atlanta for 30 years Finch, now retired, has produced a clever, downright frantic comic novel that sends up law firms, strip clubs and the mafia.
The situation is this. The white-shoe Wall Street firm of Burnham & Wood, with 1200 lawyers, (brush up your Shakespeare, especially The Scottish Play) has hired three first-year associates. Of course, they are being worked to death.
Ebenezer Burnham is a legacy hire; his great -grandfather had been a founder. But Eben is struggling to get his start, broke, at the bottom.
Ellie Van Rennselaer, pretty and bright, is also at the bottom, but her home in the Hudson Valley is Strathmore Castle on the Strathmore Estate. Think Rockefeller.
The third associate is Wolf, who grew up in the gangs. Wolf is a minority hire, with street smarts.
Most of the associates will never make partner, no matter how hard they work, unless they bring in new business, make it rain as the lawyers say, because they eat what they kill, as the lawyers say.
The youngsters need to start an “independent practice area” where they will do all the legal work.
Eben who is a red-haired, awkward doofus, is obsessed with nanotechnology, especially the possibilities of the quantum computer, which will work at the atomic level, at incredible speed. There is talk here about Schrödinger’s cat, which is in the black box alive or dead or both, as far as we know, until we open the box. The quantum computer, rather than dealing in zeroes and ones, deals in neither, or both, at the same time. Is this real? I do not know, but Eben has a genius scientist friend, Julian Attaboy, who says he has solved the puzzle. If so, the new lawyers will be able to write the patents and handle licensing and contracts. Now what is needed is financing so the device can go from the lab to start-up companies for commercial application. This gap is called The Valley of Death and can only be bridged by money. Investors are needed, those who will have “skin in the game.”
Wolf gets in touch with Tito Venga, who operates strip clubs, pole dancers, that kind of thing. Tito thinks big. He wants to start a “strip mall,” get it, an adultainment multiplex, including several clubs with different themes: classic French maid; Biblical, like Adam and Eve; fairy tales like Goldilocks; nursery rhymes like Little Bo Peep.
Tito, through Frankie the Stump, connects Wolf with boss Carmine Capelli, aboard the Mafia yacht Cali Mare, named for the Columbian cartel, not the squid. Tito’s malapropisms and the Mobster’s dialects are a linguistic delight. Then the CIA and the FBI get involved. Each can see big but different possibilities in this technology. The Mob wants to hack the world’s bank accounts. The CIA wants to hack everybody, everywhere.
Finch has created here a very funny, pretty racy, farce, with enough confusion, chaos and linguistic misunderstanding for three Marx Brothers movies.
This review was originally broadcast on Alabama Public Radio. Don Noble is host of the Alabama Public Television literary interview show “Bookmark” and the editor of “A State of Laughter: Comic Fiction from Alabama.”