Tuesday, June 15, 2021

"One Clutching Hand Seized the Revolver, the Other, with Clenched Fist, Pounded at His Face"

"Bank Night."
By Robert R. Mill (1895-1942).
Illustrations by Charles Chickering (1891-1970; HERE).
First appearance: Blue Book, February 1940.
Short story (11 pages; 6 illos).
Online at Archive.org (HERE).
     ". . . and they locked in a death struggle."

For a state trooper smitten with a speeder it's practically love at first sight, but for the object of his devotion it's something else entirely . . . .

Main characters:
The troopers:
~ Lt. Edward "Tiny" David:
  "Isn't it lucky, sir, that we came out the front way?"
~ Lt. James Crosby:
  ". . . taken completely by surprise, acted automatically."
~ Lt. Charles McMann:
  ". . . did not look forward to this with relish."
~ Captain Charles Field:
  "There's one thing in your favor: when you make a fool of yourself, you go whole hog."
~ Sgt. Max Payton:
  ". . . if the message is love and kisses, will the lieutenant care to have me deliver them to him?"
The civilians:
~ Vera Hamtrow:
  ". . . was smiling as she sat waiting for them. Her clothes and her make-up were vivid."
~ Mrs. Hamtrow:
  ". . . was carrying a large suitcase."
~ Pop:
  "Several nights here lately seems like I've been hearing funny noises down in the basement, but when I get there, there ain't nothin'."

References and resources:
- "Bank Night": It had relatively little to do directly with banks per se:
  "Bank Night was a lottery game franchise in the United States during the Great Depression. It was invented and marketed by Charles U. Yaeger, a former booking agent for 20th Century Fox. In 1936, Bank Night was played at 5,000 of America's 15,000 active theaters, and copies of it were played at countless more. The popularity of Bank Night and similar schemes contributed to the resiliency of the film industry during the Great Depression more than any other single business tactic" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "we haven't a jitterbug on the block": Not an insect but a style of dance:
  "White dancers picked up the energetic jitterbug from dancers at black venues. Venues in the Hill District of Pittsburgh were popular places for whites to learn the jitterbug. The Savoy Ballroom, a dance hall in Harlem, was a famous cross-cultural venue, frequented by both black locals and white tourists" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "the European dictators": They were very much in the news at the time:
  "Mussolini and Hitler used similar, modest titles referring to them as 'the Leader.' Mussolini used 'Il Duce' and Hitler was generally referred to as 'der Führer.' Franco used a similar title 'El Caudillo' ('the Head') and for Stalin his adopted name ['man of steel'] became synonyms with his role as the absolute leader. For Mussolini, Hitler, and Franco, the use of modest, non-traditional titles displayed their absolute power even stronger as they did not need any, not even a historic legitimacy either. Over time, dictators have been known to use tactics that violate human rights. For example, under the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, government policy was enforced by secret police and the Gulag system of prison labour camps. Most Gulag inmates were not political prisoners, although significant numbers of political prisoners could be found in the camps at any one time. Data collected from Soviet archives gives the death toll from Gulags at 1,053,829. Other human rights abuses by the Soviet state included human experimentation, the use of psychiatry as a political weapon and the denial of freedom of religion, assembly, speech and association" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "the P.W.A.": With FDR's New Deal is full effect, every reader would know what it was right away:
  "Public Works Administration (PWA), part of the New Deal of 1933, was a large-scale public works construction agency in the United States headed by Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes. It was created by the National Industrial Recovery Act in June 1933 in response to the Great Depression. It built large-scale public works such as dams, bridges, hospitals, and schools. Its goals were to spend $3.3 billion in the first year, and $6 billion in all, to provide employment, stabilize purchasing power, and help revive the economy. Most of the spending came in two waves in 1933–35, and again in 1938. Originally called the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works, it was renamed the Public Works Administration in 1935 and shut down in 1944" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "the gay nineties vintage": Seen through the haze of nostalgia almost any historical period would seem to be better than the present:
  "The Gay Nineties is an American nostalgic term and a periodization of the history of the United States referring to the decade of the 1890s. It is known in the United Kingdom as the Naughty Nineties, and refers there to the decade of supposedly decadent art of Aubrey Beardsley, the witty plays and trial of Oscar Wilde, society scandals and the beginning of the suffragette movement. Despite the term, the decade was marked by an economic crisis, which greatly worsened when the Panic of 1893 set off a widespread economic depression in the United States that lasted until 1896" (Wikipedia HERE).
- We had a recent encounter with Robert R. Mill's atypical tale, "Mrs. Murder" (HERE).

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