Dominick Dunne writes about a world full of rich, powerful people who do what they want without much regard for the rules the rest of us play by. A world so different it almost seems there couldn't possibly be real people who act like that.
"Well, guess what. There are," Dunne said in a telephone interview. "Everything I write is based to some degree on something that has happened. But then I take that reality and play with it in my own way. Then it becomes my situation and not the situation of the actual people."His latest novel to make its way to television is "An Inconvenient Woman," which airs Sunday and Monday at 8 p.m. on Ch. 4.
At the center of this tale is financier Jules Mendelson (Jason Robards). Not only is he incredibly wealthy and powerful, but Jules is about to be appointed to a high government post.
But a couple of complications crop up. First, he falls in love with Flo March (Rebecca DeMornay), a beautiful waitress and aspiring actress. And, second, a member of his social set is murdered and Jules covers up the crime.
It's the sort of situation Dunne said he's seen more than once.
"Whatever city you're in, there is a power elite. And very, very often they play by different rules," he said.
The large cast of "An Inconvenient Woman" also includes Peter Gallagher, Jill Eikenberry, Elaine Stritch, Joseph Bologna, Alex Rocco, Roddy McDowell and Chelsea Field.
Dunne has written articles for Vanity Fair about such high-profile, high-society incidents as the Claus Von Bulow case, the Vicki Morgan murder and the Menendez murders.
"I am always struck by the different set of rules that apply to the rich," he said.
Like many of his novels, "An Inconvenient Woman" contains a character who's based on Dunne himself. Philip Quennell (Gallagher) is an author who moves in this world of the rich and powerful without succumb-ing to it.
"I'm not 30 years old, but he's definitely me in this one," Dunne said. "He speaks for me. He's the guy who just simply is not going to accept the Jules Mendelson version of the way things should be."
In "Woman," Philip is the author of a book about a famous inside trader - an unflattering portrait that led to a threat of broken legs.
Dunne said he's never been threatened with physical violence, but he has been threatened. Before "People Like Us" was published, a first-draft of the book found its way into the hands of one of the New York magazines. The magazine published a story speculating on what real-life figures the fictional characters were based on.
"That led to threats. All kinds of legal threats," Dunne said. "This is without any of them having read the book yet.
"It was actually a fascinating experience for me. I began to think to myself, `What do they think I know that I don't really know?' "
Although Dunne's novels (and their TV adaptations) are dripping in money, mansions and sex, he hopes readers and viewers can look beyond the glitz and glamour.
"It's about justice - something I care greatly about," he said.
Fueling his fight for justice was the murder of his daughter, who was killed by an ex-boyfriend several years ago. Like a portion of his earlier novel, "People Like Us," the killer got off with a relatively light sentence.
The death of Dunne's daughter is ". . . what made me aware of the system. That the rights of the victims do not equate with the rights of the accused."A word of warning here. "An Inconvenient Woman" portrays a number of people who have no moral standards to speak of.
The plot involves murder, deception, adultery and various sexual perversions (including a homosexual subplot). There are lots of steamy scenes full of scantily clad actors and actresses.
The miniseries is handsomely produced and, for the most part, pretty well acted and directed. But it's the portrayal of a very trashy world and, as such, it's often trashy itself.
High class trash, but trash nonetheless.
Dunne is happy with the way TV treated his novel this time
Dominick Dunne says he's "quite pleased" with the television adaptation of his novel "An Inconvenient Woman." And that's high praise from a man who hasn't always been happy with what's happened to his books after he's sold them to TV producers.
He's still fuming about "People Like Us," which showed up as an NBC miniseries last season. And he still hasn't been able to watch all of that one.
"I couldn't," he said. "It made me so crazed I never looked at it all the way through."
The television writers took a subplot in the book - the story of a writer whose daughter is murdered by her boyfriend - and turned it into the main plot. What made the adaptation even more difficult for Dunne to accept is that that part of the story was based on the real-life murder of his own daughter.
"Everything went wrong," he said. "That was the television `Bonfire of the Vanities.' "
But Dunne said that with "An Inconvenient Woman," "Never have I, as the author of the book, been so wonderfully treated."
The author of the teleplay, John Pielmeier, wrote the play and the screenplay for "Agnes of God."
"He was very secure in his own talent," Dunne said in obvious reference to other, less-secure writers. "He really honored my book. He was sure enough of himself that, when he could keep what was in the book he did."
Dunne has nothing but praise for ABC Productions chief Brandon Stoddard.
"I think that's the difference (between `Woman' and `People')," he said. "Brandon is at the very top of ABC. At the other one (NBC), the producers didn't have the entre to the top people. It went through three or four levels of lower-echelon executives, all giving input.
"You can't have this many people giving their input. Then it turns out like it turned out."
The trials of television haven't turned Dunne off the tube, however. He has an offer to create an hourlong series for television, "Which I might do," he said. "It would be set in the world that I write in. The world of the rich and powerful." - Scott D. Pierce