Hamptons Sex Echoes ‘Gatsby’ in ‘Indiscretion’: Interview

Summer in East Hampton, autumn in Rome, trysts in Manhattan and Paris: Charles Dubow’s first novel, “Indiscretion,” hits all the sweet spots.

A house on Georgica Pond is practically a character all its own.

Dubow’s great-great grandfather was B.F. Goodrich of Goodrich tire, so there’s money in his past. It made sense to set it in the comfortable world he knew.

But all is not genteel. “My publisher is pegging this as a mash-up of ‘The Great Gatsby’ and ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’” Dubow said over lunch at Bloomberg world headquarters.

So expect plenty of sex in the story of Harry and Maddy Winslow, a famous novelist and his beautiful wife, who befriend a young woman on the beach only to have her insinuate herself into their lives in ways they didn’t expect.

The tale is told by Walter, Maddy’s childhood friend, another outsider who thinks he’s part of the family.

Hoelterhoff: You were an editor at Forbes and then Bloomberg Businessweek. Were you scribbling secretly for some time?

Dubow: About four years ago, I had a health scare which sent me to the hospital. There were people dying in the beds next to me. I wasn’t dying, but it was pretty uncomfortable and my kids were scared, obviously.

I came out of that thinking: Well, I’m not getting any younger, and I always wanted to write.

Weekend Work

So, what I’d do is I woke up every morning at five and I would write until 7 o’clock. I worked on weekends, I worked on holidays -- my wife was rather unhappy about that. Basically three years to actually write this thing.

Hoelterhoff: You’ve been very fortunate, landing a publisher after a bidding war and selling world rights.

Dubow: It’s been picked up in Russia, in Poland, in Italy, in Spain and Australia, New Zealand, the U.K. and Bulgaria.

Hoelterhoff: Bulgaria. Very cool.

Dubow: It’s amusing to contemplate.

Hoelterhoff: Well, most everyone wants some time in the Hamptons, which come into picturesque view as the damsel steps off the train. I’m hoping there’s a movie in there for you.

Dubow: How about Gwyneth Paltrow for Maddy!

Grand House

Hoelterhoff: I like Walter’s mansion

Dubow: It’s based on my great-aunt’s rather grand house in Maine. It was built by my great-great-grandmother, the widow of B.F. Goodrich. My great-grandmother, Isabella Goodrich Breckinridge, inherited on her death. Then it passed to my great-aunt Mary Marvin Breckinridge Patterson in 1962 (her two older brothers having died earlier and the younger brother being feckless).

You know the joke: “Good and rich.”

Anyway, it’s sold now, but for a child it was a beautiful place for a long time.

Hoelterhoff: Where do you spend your summers now?

Dubow: Lakeville, Connecticut, which is how the Hamptons once was -- more mellow, not filled with people driving very expensive cars and living in outsized houses.

Hoelterhoff: Comparisons to “The Great Gatsby” are inevitable. The setting, and then the hazy sense of time passing slowly.

‘Gatsby’ Connection

Dubow: I hadn’t thought about “Gatsby” when I was writing, though now looking back I can see the connections make sense.

I am writing about people who live in a certain world that I know well, not the super-rich, but the comfortably well-off people who send the kids to boarding school and know the right fork to use.

There’s Clive right at the beginning who’s kind of jerk, but Walter is an old-fashioned kind of New York lawyer. These are not really hard-charging Wall Street types.

Hoelterhoff: Did you ever have any questions of how you would end it? I thought Walter might sabotage the plane perhaps.

Dubow: No, though I did think at one point of giving it a more upbeat ending. But then I thought well, you know, that won’t make things sink in quite as much.

The point here is that people have to learn to be as responsible as possible. So easily you can hurt people, you can really destroy your life and the lives of people that you love the most if you do dumb things.

Hoelterhoff: You’ve got two kids. Will you let them read “Indiscretion”?

Dubow: No, not now. My son is 14 and my daughter is 11. My son could care less; she’s dying to read it.

“Indiscretion” is published by Morrow (388 pages, $25.99). To buy this book in North America, click here.

(Manuela Hoelterhoff is executive editor of Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own. This interview was adapted from a longer conversation.)

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