Paul E(mil) Erdman Eric Pace - Essay

Eric Pace

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

This slam-bang novel of international finance and scheming ["The Crash of '79"] is largely about greed.

And why not? The author, Paul E. Erdman, is a former international financier and therefore knows the subject intimately. Most of the rest of us may lack his expertise, but we enjoy reading about covetousness—at least the successful practice of covetousness—the way we like reading about more graphic sins. And Erdman eases any guilt we might feel at this pleasure by providing a finale that shows how greed leads to truly dreadful things.

Erdman piles on a lot of factual-seeming detail about international banking, Mideast potentates and so forth. This technique creates some odd technical problems as the book canters along, through world crises and nuclear war scares. Erdman is highly skilled at creating fictive worlds of intrigue and high finance for the lay reader, as he proved with his first two best sellers…. But in "The Crash of '79" this process of creation involves describing what seems like an awful lot of executive meetings. The reader—this reader anyhow—begins to feel saddle-sore from sitting in on so many meetings—even rousing dramatic ones.

Which brings us to other points. One of the difficulties involved in lacing a novel with current factual material is that the material can get out of date fast. (p. 6)

Instances of [outdated information] suggest that Erdman belongs to the school of thought that holds that what matters in writing commercial action-adventure novels is not factual accuracy but only the semblance of accuracy….

Nonetheless I have no doubt that this Erdman novel, like its two predecessors, will be read with gusto by the Western wheelers and dealers I see hanging out in the lobbies of fancy Persian Gulf hotels. It's a fine read for those who dig the genre. (p. 71)

Eric Pace, "About International Finance, a.k.a. Greed," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1976 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), November 14, 1976, pp. 6, 71.