BOOKS: TRUMP, THE EARLY DAYS

A NEW NOVEL CELEBRATES THE RISE AND FALL OF A TURN-OF-THE-CENTURY REAL ESTATE BARON

Why do novelists like to stereotype American entrepreneurs as single-minded and heartless? Perhaps because so many are. Herman Melville set the tone in 1857 with The Confidence-Man. Mark Twain later brought the national style of go-getting to popular perfection in Huckleberry Finn. An adult rereading of that masterpiece reveals a hierarchy of hustlers, from runaway slave Jim and his fortune-telling hair ball to the outlandish charlatans calling themselves the King and the Duke.

At the other literary extreme, Horatio Alger's heroes triumphed through trustworthiness, diligence and stupefying practicality. As usual, the truth about the business world lies somewhere between comic cynicism...

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