The Book: Ben Stein, THE CROESUS CONSPIRACY. Simon & Schuster, 1978 (first edition). Inscribed by the author. Fine book in good dust jacket; dust jacket shows rubbing on corners, top and bottom of spine, front cover.
First read: 2001
Owned since: 2001
It's true, I won Ben Stein's money. Before I did, though, he was gracious enough to sign this book for me. By happy chance, I found it on the shelves at The Mystery Bookstore a week or so before my appearance, and read it in advance.
It's been out of print for a long time, which is a shame, because it's quite entertaining. The central character is a thinly-disguised version of Henry Kissinger, here called Dr. Arthur Kosters. Dr. Kosters is Secretary of State, but even more than that, a Metternich-style eminence grise who manipulates world politics for the benefit of the United States and, presumably, himself. The protagonist, Senator Travis Bickel (named after the character in Taxi Driver) finds evidence that Kosters may have been a member of the Hitler Youth; soon afterwards, Bickel and his colleagues are the targets of a series of attacks.
Ben Stein has become a controversial figure, but he's - obviously - among the smartest people I've ever met, a true Renaissance man whose infinite curiosity and enthusiasm have dissipated any ambitions he might have had to rule the world. He was tremendously kind to me, not only on his show but also as a client on a couple of minor projects afterwards. I feel lucky to have crossed paths with him, and am grateful to have this book as a souvenir.