Conrad Black Book Club: A Matter of Principle, Chapter 10 (wherein Peter C. Newman’s imagination is ghoulishly prurient)

Conrad Black Book Club: A Matter of Principle, Chapter 10 (wherein Peter C. Newman’s imagination is ghoulishly prurient)


The action picks up with Conrad and Barbara enjoying the pleasant August heat on their Bridle Path terrace and engaging in some amateur nature observations (deer, foxes, raccoons, skunks) with a tipple of white wine. Meanwhile, Barbara gets her job back at Maclean’s and the pair hang with Elton John (again). Sounds like paradise.

Of course, the Baron is also broke and facing civil charges, and everyone in the world is out to get him (that last thing may or may not be a figment of his imagination). David Radler, Black’s former business partner, has entered into a plea bargain with the U.S. prosecutors: in exchange for his testimony, he’ll get off easy. And we do mean easy—he’s sentenced to six months at a cushy penal colony with horseback riding, theatre arts and golf. Golf!

Naturally, this grates Black’s cheese. He launches into the first of many long tirades against the American justice system (he thinks it’s corrupt). Also corrupt: lawyers, the whole lot of them (except his own). But that’s not all. Black believes his house is bugged—apparently he heard the spies after the wrong switch was activated on the other end (um, because that happens all the time).

Black, as he does in every chapter, spends a great deal of time cataloging the various books and articles published about him. Bonus: this time, there’s also mention of Shades of Black, a CBC TV movie starring Albert Schultz as Black, Lara Flynn Boyle as Barbara and Jason Priestley as a wise-guy investigator. And, once again, Black devotes many, many words to sputtering like Yosemite Sam over his hatred for Richard Breeden. But this time he also reserves some rage for Peter C. Newman, who wrote a book that apparently makes some saucy allegations about Barbara’s supposed powers of persuasion. Never one to pass up a dramatic overture, Black summons his lawyer, Eddie Greenspan, to serve Newman a libel suit at a fancy dinner for Maclean’s 100th anniversary dinner. And because the universe requires balance, that triumph keeps Black on high for exactly three days before he’s indicted on criminal charges.

In the words of the Lord:

On the practical purposes of writing his first memoir: “I tried to reduce the number of books and articles written about me by writing a book about myself in 1992, which was quite well-reviewed and sold well.”

On his relationship with David Radler: “I knew he often mocked my vocabulary, speeches or writing as vanity or affectation, but I took this in stride.”

On Peter C. Newman’s Here Be Dragons: “The section about Barbara was the lowest, nastiest, most revolting piece of journalistic sewage I have read. Newman purported to be the all-seeing connoisseur of our bedroom and from his lurid imagination explained to readers and then to interviewers that Barbara hooked me with her sexual wiles, which he purported to detail, with a ghoulishly prurient imagination.”

On lead prosecutor Eric Sussman: “When he spoke, his wrists and hands moved jerkily, as if they were being manipulated by an amateur ventriloquist. When he stopped speaking, he went to a default countenance that was gape-mouthed, punctuated by his tongue bulging against the inside of his cheek like a lingual erection.”