This week, "The Reading Room," an online feature of the NYT's Book Review is hosting a discussion of Bonfire of the Vanities. What's changed since the book was written, what's still true? Here's some of what the participants have to say about the Bronx courts:
"The Jewish District Attorney in “Bonfire,” Abe Weiss, figures he’ll be the next mayor if he can use the case to win over black voters. Today the district attorney of the Bronx is the quiet Robert Johnson, a contained African-American who makes as few headlines as is humanly possible.
The flamboyant judge in the book was based not-so-loosely on the irascible Burton B. Roberts, at the time the chief administrative judge of State Supreme Court in the Bronx, who was so colorful that his face would literally turn red when he would lost his temper, which was often and generally with a distinct purpose. He retired a decade ago and there is nobody even vaguely like him in the Bronx today, or anywhere in the other four boroughs."
Previously we've commented on how the process of going through the "bookings" is portrayed in Bonfire, linked to interviews from the Times with several of the real-life people on whom principal characters in the novel were based, and posted reflections by Phil Bowen on reading the book while working in the Bronx courthouse.