There Goes the Neighborhood

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It has been several months since I read a book. The men’s bookclub selection this month was a novel titled “The Gold Coast” by Nelson DeMille. At first I thought this a five hundred page story, it will take me a month to finish. Well, it took one week. This is the kind of story that can’t be put down. I found myself actually shutting off the TV in favor of becoming engrossed. I always set a bed time, but on several evenings I stayed up way past the scheduled time. This is not a new book(1990), but I had never heard of it before. The setting is Long Island, New York in a place where the really, really rich lived and played called the Gold Coast. It is often compared to the Greta Gatsby era when the Roosevelts, Vanderbilts, Astors, Rockerfellers, and J.P. Morgan lived opulent lives which cannot be duplicated except by maybe some Saudi Princes.

The story of how these people lived in their fifty room mansions on their two hundred acre estates fascinated me. Even the gate houses and guest houses were mansions. Today, if I pass by a  very pricey sub-division and see a gate house it is usually the size of a phone booth and not a mansion. The driveways from the gate house to the mansion were usually  tree lined winding country lanes that took a few minutes to drive.

I found DeMille’s characters depicting the stodgy, snooty, Gatsby era citizens very believable and real. Not that I have a lot of experience with these sorts of characters, but I fraternized enough with the upper echelons of some huge  Corporations to be able to know who was real and who was not. Having never had more money than I needed to survive I did find it hard to imagine people so wealthy that they could afford to keep not one but several houses of this magnitude.

Author DeMille cleverly crafted a plot that depicts a neighborhood that is slowly evolving into something less than it once was. Developers are the only ones who can afford to buy the large tracts and often a single estate is split into many smaller ten acre lots. In this story one of the estates is spared by a new guy moving in. As we often say when that happens, “there goes the neighborhood.” In this story, the guy who spoils the neighborhood is a Mafia don from New York who is known to everyone in the Gold Coast via newspaper accounts of  his purported crimes.

If you like a good story this is one I recommend. This story would make a really good movie.

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