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The Author Speaks

Interview With Carol Ross Joynt on Reinventing a Life

Widow talks about recovery from financial ruin

Carol Ross Joynt's Innocent Spouse is the story of her IRS trouble due to her husband's financial mismanagement

In 'Innocent Spouse,' Carol Ross Joynt recounts her IRS trouble after her husband's financial mismanagement and early death. — Courtesy of Crown Publishing

En español | What you don't know can hurt you.

In fact, if there is a moral to Carol Ross Joynt's new memoir, Innocent Spouse, it is what you don't know that can destroy your life.

See also: Excerpt from Innocent Spouse.

In December 1996, she nestled against her husband's shoulder as their 63-foot sloop swept through the night toward the mountainous island of St. Bart's. Their 5-year-old, Spencer, on his first sail, lay asleep below in his bunk. She writes, "I had everything I wanted in the world." A month later, she was on the deck of a metaphoric Titanic, headed for the iceberg.

When Howard Joynt, a whip-smart rogue who owned the legendary Georgetown saloon Nathans in Washington, D.C., died of pneumonia at 57, his wife mourned her haven, her partner and the father of her only child. Yet, as Nathan Detroit, the fictional gambler for whom the saloon was named might have said, she had not seen nothing yet.

Not only was her castle built on sand, it was made of smoke and mirrors.

Carol Ross Joynt thought she knew her husband better than anyone. But, in her wildest dreams, she could not have imagined his secrets, including a multimillion-dollar tax debt.

As her husband's heir, Ross Joynt was left a single mom trying to run the restaurant and fight the IRS. It cost her her job as a TV producer for Larry King Live, where she was responsible for the big "gets" for King's show — such as Tom Cruise, Christopher Reeve and Elizabeth Taylor. And while Ross Joynt loved the lush life, she could live without it. And she did.

In a conversation with the AARP Bulletin, Ross Joynt discusses her book and reinventing herself at the age of 60.

Q. Howard's parents were very wealthy. Your father-in-law took pleasure in eating his breakfast cereal from Oliver Wendell Holmes' bowl. Why isn't Spencer doing that?

A. The will is written so Howard and his sister Martha would get the interest and the grandchildren would get the principal. The grandchildren were listed by name. Spencer was not born when the will was written. By the time he was born, Mr. Joynt had died and Mrs. Joynt had Alzheimer's. She died when Spencer was 4, a year before Howard died. I asked Howard to file to break the will, or something like that, to put Spencer's name in, but he would not do it.

Next: Age bias and starting over. >>

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