Cover by Todd Engel      Author’s Note: All That Money  


This book I wrote under unusual circumstances. In the spring of 2006, I was helping to renovate an apartment when one Thursday afternoon I got a telephone call offering me a job I had applied for, to start a week from the following Monday. I needed that job. So, after spending a day or two making notes, I began writing, and by the time I started the new job, the first draft of All That Money was finished. Whew! For a moment there I thought I was Georges Simenon! But as usual the time it took to rewrite it undid any seeming time savings in writing at such speed.

I was helped in the characterization of my heroine by having recently seen Ellen Page's movie Hard Candy, and it's not too much to say that I wrote Lucie Spode White with her in mind. Some readers tell me this is their favorite of my novels.

It is based on an event, now forgotten, but sensational in its day: the 1934 "kidnaping" in Louisville, Kentucky, of Alice Speed Stoll, a young married woman, heiress to a prominent family.

Unfortunately, no book has ever been written about her kidnaping. My research therefore was restricted to digging up contemporary newspaper accounts, in Louisville, Kentucky newspapers and in The New York Times, which published more than one hundred stories about it. I wanted to read the transcripts of the trial of the man convicted in the case, but the local Federal courthouse could not locate them.

My research missed the fact that the convicted "kidnapper" ultimately was released from prison and died a free man. His case is legally notable because, having agreed under duress to a plea deal that would have imprisoned him for life, he later successfully appealed for a trial, but at trial was convicted and sentenced to death; he came within 24 hours of his date with the electric chair. After his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, changes were made to insure that, in future, appeals could not lead to worse results.

I had the opportunity of asking several Speed family members, cousins who knew Alice Speed Stoll well, what the family version of her "kidnaping" is. "We were always taught," said one carefully, "that she was in on it." "I never heard that!" cried her sister. They did agree that, in later years, whenever anyone had the temerity to ask about the kidnaping, Alice Speed Stoll would sweep around 180 degress and freeze out the questioner; effective despite the fact that she was as petite as Ellen Page. What is thought to be her self-portrait shows a very lonely looking old woman. At her death in 1996 she left the Speed Art Museum more than $50 million.


Cover by Todd EngelDECIDER   How do you decide whether you want to read a book? Friends' recommendations are useful, as are reviews. But surely the best way is to read its first paragraph, then turn at random to a later paragraph and read it. At a glance you have an idea of what the book's about, its style, how well it's written, its seriousness, its appeal—to you. If it doesn't interest you, it's on to the next!

Below is the opening of All That Money. Click the button for more, at random.



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