Exclusive: Richistan Author Sells Riches to Rags

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Photo: Patrick McMullan

When last we heard from The Wall Street Journal's Robert Frank, author of the solid-selling survey of obscene wealth, Richistan, he was confirming he'd missed the Madoff book rush, wisely deciding to sit it out. But this week he catches the wave of doom lit, netting more than $300,000 — a full three times his advance on Richistan — from that book's publisher, Crown, for a sequel of sorts, tentatively titled Riches to Rags. Sob stories from former fat cats reduced to flying commercial — at least one of them a Richistan profilee who recently filed for bankruptcy — will be handled with a similar blend of empathy and derision.

"The new voyeurism is Schadenfreude," Frank tells us. "Some of the TARP wife syndrome will certainly be in there, but I don't want to be pandering to that." The tentative pub date is 2011; does this mean Frank is rooting against the success of the stimulus package, in hopes we'll still be in the hole when his book is shelf-ready? Frank seems prepared for things to turn around. "The last third will be about the new Richistan," he says, noting that Bloomberg made his billions only after being laid off from Merrill Lynch. "There are a lot of people who are out there who might be the next wave. So hopefully I'm hedged, but I don't know if I want to be hedged. We all know how successful hedging has been."