Picks and Pans Review: High Cotton

updated 07/06/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/06/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Sherri Daley

Philip L. Hehmeyer had been chairman of the New York Cotton Exchange only two months when on Aug. 20, 1982 he killed himself with a shotgun blast in the chest, pulling the trigger with a string tied to his toes. At 37, he had bought long on ambition and sold short on personal insight. A blackboard in his toney East Side apartment proclaimed his last glib observation: "Somebody had to do it. Self-awareness is silly." Daley, his longtime lover, makes an impressive writing debut with this memoir of their tortured affair. She deftly captures the heady, sexy world of the money turks who literally jump into rings that are part of the exchange floor to compete in the Wall Street financial market. "I had never known a group of people who lived as recklessly as they did," she writes. "They pushed their limits; they played hardball. They were players, and they had no time for day traders who played close to the vest. They almost worshipped risk taking." Hehmeyer was a charismatic Southern boy who radiated genteel charm. He fancied midnight sailboat rides in the snow, vintage Jaguars, cocaine, booze and weekends on Nantucket or Long Island's North Shore. Daley, a school teacher from Michigan, was his willing Yankee victim. She joined Hehmeyer's crowd of shallow, impulsive and sexually promiscuous buddies with abandon and, when spurned by Hehmeyer, had a son out of wedlock with his onetime best friend. This book starts strongly, capturing the tempo and subculture of Wall Street, then peters out when Hehmeyer ditches Daley. From that point the book chronicles the author's sexual and advertising-career adventures, which read like those of a failed Cosmo girl. Daley occasionally overwrites and dishes up inane dialogue. Still, High Cotton—Southern slang for great wealth—shows what life can be like for attractive single women trying to make it with very little support in New York. It's a potent tale with an F. Scott Fitzgerald twist. (Norton, $18.95)

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