An Alderman’s Ambition

Here’s the thirteenth episode of our current Tale for Our Time: Psmith, Journalist, P G Wodehouse’s tale of an Old Etonian who finds himself among two of the seamier underbellies of New York – gangland and the media. Why are we running this particular audio adaptation now? Well, as Marc Swerdloff, a Steyn Club First Day Founding Member from Florida, put it an episode or two back:

This chapter managed to elicit a belly laugh in me, something these perilous times had squelched. Thank you Mark.

In perilous times, it’s important to un-squelch the laughs, Marc. I chose this tale mostly for its escapist value, but, alas, tonight’s episode does bring our caper perilously close to these perilous times:

“Naturally he wants to keep it dark about these tenements. It’ll smash him at the election when it gets known.”

“Why is he so set on becoming an Alderman?” inquired Psmith.

“There’s a lot of graft to being an Alderman,” explained Billy.

Indeed there is. Under Tammany, an alderman received no salary, but surely never needed one: He enjoyed the power within his district to appoint all police officers and to license all saloons within his district. He also sat as the local judge, selected which cases came to court, and handpicked his juries. The century-long tolerance for such brazen self-dealing echoes down the years to all this last month’s flimflam.

Members of The Mark Steyn Club can hear me read Part Thirteen of Psmith, Journalist simply by clicking here and logging-in. Earlier episodes can be found here.

If you’ve yet to hear any of our Tales for Our Time, you can do so by joining The Mark Steyn Club. For more details, see here – and don’t forget our special Gift Membership. I’ll be hosting Part Fourteen of Psmith, Journalist right here tomorrow evening, and just ahead of that I’ll be back to conduct another session of our Clubland Q&A. That’s at 4pm North American Eastern time – 9pm Greenwich Mean Time.

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