Wednesday, March 22, 2017

"Rows of Seductive Disks"

"A Million Dollars."
By B. M. Adler (?-?).
First appearance: The Railroad Man’s Magazine, October 1910.
Short short story (8 pages).
Online at (HERE).
(Note: Text is very faded; clicking on the "Zoom In" function 3 or 4 times should make it easier to read.)
"What This Great Sum Really Earned When It Was Placed on Public Exhibition."
Down on his luck and with a severely depleted bank account, Samuel Doniford is determined to make a comeback in the business world; he'd like to get a position with Joseph Carwell, an old college chum, but he won't take charity. Doniford evolves a scheme whereby he can earn enough to secure a place at the brokerage firm of Biddle, Carwell & Johns, a plan involving Carwell and a substantial sum. They say it takes money to make money; in Doniford's case, to earn the thirty thousand dollars he needs will take a cool million . . .
Comment: This story feels incomplete. It's a shame the author's imagination failed him (or her) when he tacked on an irrelevant subplot at the end instead of finishing out the main story line. Otherwise his prose is just fine, as shown by this nifty piece of descriptive writing:

   "A savage and shrieking gust seemed to blow into the lobby a weazened figure that weakly tried to resist the rude play of the wind. Then the blast died as suddenly as it had come, leaving its shivering plaything stranded in the expanse of onyx and marble.
   "He was very old, and a much-shrunken man, with a short, thick, snow-white beard. What little flesh was left on his deeply lined face was livid, scarlet, and purple with cold. His eyes, that had retreated far back in their sockets, were of an intense blue, but watery and uncertain. A suit of shabby black, shoes cracked and holed, but much polished where there was any leather to polish, a frayed but clean collar, the remnants of a white tie, a single glove, and no overcoat, constituted the attire of the forlorn creature."

- Honest, folks, we couldn't find anything about B. M. Adler, with FictionMags listing "A Million Dollars" as his (or her) sole credit.
- Our author's thinking may have been influenced by the recent Panic of 1907; see Wikipedia (HERE).
- In 1910 America was adhering to the gold standard (Wikipedia: HERE), but in 1971 President Nixon and a compliant Congress abandoned it.
- Even though this story appeared in a railroading magazine, trains aren't even mentioned. If you're a ferroequinologist, or just have tendencies toward it, you needn't worry. We're by no means finished with how crime and railroads intersect; in the future look for more, such as, e.g., the next post just above this one.

The bottom line: ". . . for gold conjures up a mist about a man, more destructive of all his old senses and lulling to his feelings than the fumes of charcoal . . ."

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