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Memphis Flyer L.A. Confidential

By Leonard Gill

DECEMBER 1, 1997:  What is there to add to Dominick Dunne’s long-awaited book on the (his phrase) “O.J. Simpson floor show”? It’s been out now for just under a month, the hard-core audience for it is reading it or has read it, and the author’s been popping up, worn but willing to rehearse the same points one more time, on every talk show known to man. So you’d have to be living under a rock to not know that Another City, Not My Own is not, in fact, another O.J. book. What it is is “a novel in the form of a memoir,” and to make sense of and the need for that curious formulation, you’ll have to start making sense of Dominick Dunne. God knows, the man himself’s been trying to for years.

He left Los Angeles 15 years before the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, an alcoholic graduating into cocaine and a self-described “B-level producer on an A-level social list.” Drink and drugs didn’t do him in, though. A string of box-office bombs culminating in the camp classic Ash Wednesday starring Liz Taylor was sufficient – that, and the murder of his daughter in Hollywood, the light sentence handed her assailant, and (good lapsed Catholic that he is) the divorce, but not separation, from a wife who later developed multiple sclerosis.

Dunne moved to a cabin in Oregon, dried out, wrote a failed novel of Hollywood, returned to New York, converted a true murder case among the rich and famous into the smash-hit novel The Two Mrs. Grenvilles, and became Vanity Fair’s reporter-of-choice when it came to covering low-life mayhem among high-society WASPs on the East Coast. Glamorous, gossipy Los Angeles, the dream city from Dunne’s childhood, had become for the adult Dunne the nightmare city of personal failure and family tragedy.

The Menendez boys and O.J. Simpson brought Dunne back to L.A. and kept him there for two years, but this time as a celebrity in his own right with a prize seat in court and a prize seat at L.A.’s more sought-after tables. In Another City, Not My Own, however, it isn’t Dunne who occupies those seats but his fictional counterpart, Gus Bailey: Gus the loser-turned-up-winner, Gus the insider’s insider, Gus the name-dropper, Gus the hobnobber, Gus the betrayer of confidences, and Gus the victim of his own celebrityhood when he meets his match and his Maker in the book’s shock ending. For a man who’s built a career on tracking unearned fame and unpunished crime, it’s a thoroughly ironic and particularly grisly way to go. Or is it a just comeuppance and gruesome self-sentencing?

It’s no secret that Dunne thought Simpson guilty as hell from the start and that the author’s courtroom reaction to the verdict appeared to be equal parts blow to the stomach and blow to the heart. The Goldmans wept; Dunne underwent cardiac arrest. But at least he survived to start in packing hours after Simpson walked out a free man. Time, distance, and a certain subsequent, fashionable bloodbath have apparently convinced Dunne that he pack in Gus Bailey too. The book, let it be said, is impossible to put down.

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