The Goodlife



A chilling psychological study of an ordinary husband and wife consumed by their pursuit of the American Dream, The GoodLife is based on the true story of the kidnapping of an Exxon executive in suburban New Jersey by an unlikely pair of criminals: a middle-aged, middle-class husband and wife, deeply in debt. He was the son of a retired cop; she was the mother of two. Together, they believed they were entitled to more, to a taste of the good life. Intrigued by the audacity of their crime and its psychological underpinnings, award-winning writer Keith Scribner turned his fascination into an unsettling, compulsively readable novel about the American Dream gone awry. Told from five different points of view, The GoodLife unfolds over the course of three excruciating days. As the couple’s carefully wrought scheme begins to falter and their desperation mounts, the novel becomes an engrossing depiction of how a tenuous moral hold comes undone. As much a cautionary tale as a penetrating thriller, Scribner’s debut is about the slippery seduction of relative truth and the dangerous lure of entitlement.


“The movement of a novel, even one as finely written as “The GoodLife,” across five points of view is potentially disastrous . . . But Scribner, who teaches in Stanford University’s creative writing program, handles this challenge, cutting the focus not only to the action-Stona bound and gagged, Theo listening to his father’s police scanner-but smoothly away from it, too into his characters’ troubled histories . . . . The drama, we realize is not simply about the kidnapping of an oil-company executive and whether he will be rescued, but how one marriage strangely destroys another, how a father’s belief in his son endures naively for decades and how economic defeat pushes people through despair into savagery.”
—New York Times Book Review

“The GoodLife is like the literary love child of Truman Capote and Robert Altman. Combining the grisly true-crime minutiae of Capote’s “In Cold Blood” with Altman’s screwball social satire, the novel manages to be both horrifying and hilarious.”
—San Francisco Chronicle

“Scribner’s provocative first novel [is] an astute and detailed comment on the American Dream’s criminal edge .. an effective warning about the narcotic effect of materialism.”
—Publishers Weekly

“In taut, absorbing prose, Keith Scribner tells a cautionary tale about the times we live in. His story is both topical and extraordinary, certain to start many a debate on materialism and morality. The Good Life is an exceptional debut heralding the arrival of a powerful new voice in American fiction.”
—Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Discover Great New Writers

“…written with a deft hand and an eye for detail . . . Scribner takes this story down a path that examines the disintegration of moral values.”
—San Diego Union-Tribune

“Scribner has created wonderfully complex characters in a briskly paced narrative. . Based on an actual crime, this first novel is no less gripping for the inevitability of its plot, as it illuminates human motives and behavior.”

“The GoodLife is a riveting, psychologically sophisticated first novel, based on the actual kidnapping of an Exon executive in 1992, by an improbable pair of criminals . . .[it] is told from several different points of view, which heightens the tension of the story considerably as we move from Theo, to Colleen, to their victim, who struggles mightily in his captivity with doubts about the women he has loved, the life he has led and the choices he has made.”
—Library Journal

“Not since John Cheever’s “Bullet Park” has a novel so captured the violent vicissitudes of suburbia.”
—The Baltimore Sun

“Keith Scribner’s new novel, which is based on the true account of a New Jersey couple who resorted to kidnapping and, ultimately, murder in a quest for the good life…explores society’s compulsion to succeed, and the nature of greed.”

“The writer imagines with intimate compassion the anxieties and bruised dreams that motivate each character, and he achieves a luminous clarity… The novel, acid and observant about an indigenous sort of materialism, carries Theo and Colleen further from any chance of success until it produces a stunning wreckage.”

“A thriller that stakes its chills on moral suspense-and hits the jackpot.”
—Entertainment Weekly

“Scribner demonstrates that he has the chops to become a major literary talent… [The GoodLife] is an important work that reads as if it was a collaboration between John Cheever and Donald Westlake. Very highly recommended.”
— – Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub