A Washington D.C. native and a current Brooklynite, Benjamin Wallace is fast establishing himself a master of the brainy nonfiction thriller, rooting up feuds and controversies in pop and less-than-pop culture while buddying up with their embattled and larger-than-life personalities (whom he sometimes meets on their way down). He profiled conserative mouthpiece Glenn Beck for GQ in 2007 shortly after the pundit landed a controversial slot on CNN, and in 2002 looked at chef Georges Perrier of Philidelphia's then-five-star restaurant, Le Bec-Fin.
Wallace's orderly, deadpan writing style hints at one of his secrets: his love (and talent) for playing the straight man to the once-mighty in downfall, right as they go aflame in tragicomic hubris. (The Billionaire's Vinegar is simply a pleasure, not least to schadenfreude junkies.) It's easy to imagine him, the bespectacled wallflower, watching as brouhaha over a wine bottle once valued at $165,000 -- the highest price fetched for a bottle, ever -- culimates in a court trial that reveals at least two of its main characters, a wine collector and a wine expert, to be frauds. Or at least emperors with no clothes.