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Book review: Love and Money

By's Steph Zajkowski

Published: 9:30AM Wednesday April 04, 2012

Author Greg McGee has put his pseudonym Alix Bosco to rest and re-emerged from the publisher with a cracking new novel under his own name. The electric lime and pink cover serves up the first clue: Love and Money is set in 1987. It's boom time on the share market and money is flying around the stratosphere, just waiting to fall into the hands of those with the nerve to reach high enough to grab it.

Skirting around the periphery of the 'Greed is Good' set is Mike, a middle-aged actor and ex romantic lead, eking his way through life with a clapped out VW, a job in community theatre and three kids to three different mothers.

The one thing he has going for him is his girlfriend of three years, Louise; she's climbing to dizzying heights on the corporate ladder and it's not long before the inevitable happens - her world of mirror glass and paper palaces is at odds with Mike's fading glory.  When Louise exchanges Mike for someone with a lot more leverage, he has to fall back on his own resources. But how far can three exes, three children and relatively good intentions carry him in the glossy world of yuppies and fast money in the insatiable late 80s?

Set against the vivid backdrop of New Zealand's largest city in the year of a rugby world cup, the year of an election and the year the shit hit the fan, McGee's portrait of the era is rich, funny and bitingly sharp. How I enjoyed revisiting McGee's Auckland of 20 odd years ago; as Mike's adventures, kids and exes wheel us through familiar suburbs, some unchanged to us now; others so altered.

McGee also weaves in politics, boldly reinventing Lange's election campaign of 87 from the perspective of a (fictional) political sidekick, Sean - who's married to one of Mike's exes.  All the while, the shadow of October 87's market crash looms over the events of the novel, the nation and Mike himself. The themes of love, corporate greed and ruthlessness still resonate in today's news, lending Love and Money a disturbingly contemporary flavour.

This is a novel that's crying out to be made into a movie or tele-feature. It's a vibrant, bittersweet slice of a more wide-eyed time in New Zealand history, and one loveable rogue battling through at the heart of it all.  Love and Money is highly recommended.

Love and Money: A Novel by Greg McGee
Publisher: Penguin NZ
Available: 30 March