By  on March 9, 1994

Connie Bruck, whose blockbuster bestseller, "The Predators' Ball," caused shock waves and fury in what is sometimes laughingly called "the financial community," is about to do it again with her new book, "Master of the Game." It's all about the wondrous life and good and bad times of the late entrepreneurial genius Steve Ross, who, with his big smile, melting charm, generosity, guile, good looks, business acumen, incomparable artfulness at the deal and willingness to sacrifice his best friend, rose from undertaker to lord of Time Warner, the biggest media and entertainment company in the world. Hard-hitting? Oh yes. Even bloody. And we get a touch of the Mafia for good measure.

But if it's scathing, the book is also balanced, although Steve's close friends and admirers, like the famed attorney Arthur Liman, for instance, may disagree. Many may feel Connie Bruck does not give Steve, eminently likable and eminently wily, his due. His enemies may think she could have kicked him even harder. Whatever, Bruck doesn't write books that aren't controversial. And is there anyone anywhere who is a better researcher than she?

Steve Ross's personal life, including his three wives (his widow, Courtney, is not a Bruck favorite), are subjected to the same unsparing scrutiny as his business deals. Everything you ever wanted to know about the Time Inc. and Warner Communications merger is delivered to you in spades, plus maybe even more than you wanted to know about the Westchester Premier Theatre scandal in which Jay Emmett was offered up as a sacrifice.

Socially, Steve was gregarious and easy and fun. That is the only way I knew him and that is the way I liked him. If he had warts, whenever he was around me they were covered with pancake makeup. As many people loved him as hated him, but I guess you had to be in a boardroom -- or in bed -- with him to know the real man. Frankly, I couldn't put "Master of the Game" down. Just wait until everyone who is convinced he -- or she -- is a Steve Ross expert hops on this one. Get set for a plethora of punditry -- and piffle.

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