I was raised by parents, both of whom spent their childhood and adolescence in the years of the Great Depression. Naturally, if I complained about what was for dinner, I'd usually get a remark like, "Just be thankful for what's on your plate!"
And justifiably so.
As I grew to adulthood, I garnered a real respect for what Mom & Dad had endured in their earlier years. The Great Depression, World War II--that's quite a lot of drama for one lifetime. When the old adage came down the pike that they were of the "Greatest Generation", I can't wholly argue against that. With their passing, I felt as though I'd witnessed the passing of an age.
My guest writer this week is Glen Craney, who has crafted a unique and hard-hitting story based upon the only time in American history that two American armies fought--and it happened in downtown Washington DC! Really, it matters not which political side you're on, the political upheaval in the US over the past five years is so concerning. Craney is painting a vivid picture of life in the US at another time of upheaval, and since history tends to repeat itself, maybe we should all be paying attention.
Welcome to Brook's Journal, Glen! I'm glad you're here, and thanks for sharing such a personal and poignant portion of your book.
Exceprt of The Yanks are Starving
By Glen Craney
As a blood-pressure cuff tightened around his arm, President Herbert
Hoover thumbed through that morning’s edition of the Washington Star.
He paused at a cartoon lampooning him on a whimsical fishing expedition
to catch enough trout to feed a nation of Hoovervilles. That distasteful
epithet, coined by wags to describe the thousands of shantytowns sprouting up
around the country, never failed to roil his stomach. Disgusted, he looked away
from the editorial page, only to be assaulted by the same oppressive drab green
that closed in on him here every day. He had wanted to repaint the walls of the
Oval Office white after a fire destroyed the wing two years ago, but Lou, feeling
the mood of the country was not right for such an innovation, had prevailed on
him to restore the place exactly as Taft had first modeled it.
I cannot even govern my own household.
The gyrating hand on the blood-pressure gauge finally settled, and Admiral
Joel T. Boone, his reedy, mustached White House physician, regarded the
result as if he had just been dealt a bad poker hand. He adjusted the cuff for
another attempt, but the president shook his head and ripped it off, refusing
to be clamped again.
Hoover didn’t need to be told the numbers were too high. The tightness
in his chest and numbness in his hands were evidence enough. He glanced at
his reflection in the glass of Lou’s framed picture on the desk. His graying hair
had thinned and his eyesight was so weak now that he had to squint even with
the spectacles. Each day seemed to bring more bad news, sapping his vitality
drip by drip. Born a year after the Panic of 1873, he had witnessed fourteen
recessions come and go, but none had lasted as long as this latest downturn
sparked by the stock market crash in October of 1929. The food riots in
the cities were now becoming more frequent. Just last month, hundreds of
women had been reported sleeping in Chicago’s Grant Park.
Desperate for a respite from these burdens, he searched the mail, hoping
for a letter from his son, Bert Junior. Instead, his gaze landed on the heel
marks that his predecessor, Cal Coolidge, had left on the desk during his daily
naps. He glared a silent curse at those infernal scratches. They had become
his personal version of the Latin reminder whispered centuries ago by Roman
servants to keep the emperors grounded in reality.
Memento mori… Remember, you are mortal.
This moribund economy was that snoozing New Englander’s fault! How
many times had he warned Coolidge against the evils of easy money and speculation?
But the obstinate man had refused to listen to him, choosing instead to
escape during his last year in office to the Black Hills, where he had spent more
time watching rodeos than dealing with falling farm prices. Now he knew
why Woodrow Wilson had deteriorated so rapidly during his second term. On
mornings like this, he yearned to be back at Stanford, far away from politics
and taking care of his neglected—
“Mr. President, I cannot get an accurate reading if you don’t relax.”
He returned to the newspaper and flipped its pages to a report of a speech
given earlier that week by that Tammany Hall puppet, Franklin Roosevelt.
His mouth soured as he read the New Yorker’s vitriol glazed with sugary patrician
eloquence. “Why is it, Joel, that when a man is on this job as I am, day
and night, doing the best he can, that certain men seek to oppose everything
he does just to be ornery?”
“Few people understand the stress of your job, sir.”
He knew what the editors of the Washington papers would say to that: At
least he has a job. He tossed aside the Star and, hoping for more empathy from
the Midwest, picked up the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Yet on page five, a two-paragraph
notice below the fold sparked his ire again. He barked at the story,
“Peel them for donations, why don’t you!”
Mystified by the president’s outburst, the admiral asked, “Sir?”
Hoover chastised himself for the indiscretion. More and more these days,
he caught himself mumbling defenses at the cascade of criticism about his
national stewardship. He ruffled the newspaper in frustration—as if the
confounded stories might be shaken from the page—and displayed for the
admiral’s inspection the latest horror in print. It was an item tucked between
accounts of the marriage of Amelia Earhart and the congressional push to
have The Star Spangled Banner designated as the national anthem. “Look at
this, Joel. They’re building a church in St. Louis out of orange crates.”
The physician felt his pulse. “How have you been feeling lately, sir?”
“As if I’m trapped in my own skin. Why is my face so puffy?”
“The swelling is edema. It’s caused by lack of sleep. Let’s try the other arm.”
All About the Book
Two armies. One flag. No honor.
The most shocking day in American history.
Former political journalist Glen Craney brings to life the little-known story of the Bonus March of 1932, which culminates in a bloody clash between homeless World War I veterans and U.S. Army regulars on the streets of Washington, D.C.
Mired in the Great Depression and on the brink of revolution, the nation holds its collective breath as a rail-riding hobo named Walter Waters leads 40,000 destitute men and their families to the steps of the U.S. Capitol on a desperate quest for economic justice.
This timely epic evokes the historical novels of Jeff Shaara as it sweeps across three decades following eight Americans who survive the fighting in France and come together fourteen years later to determine the fate of a country threatened by communism and fascism.
From the Boxer Rebellion in China to the Plain of West Point, from the persecution of conscientious objectors to the horrors of the Marne, from the Hoovervilles of the heartland to the pitiful Anacostia encampment, here is an unforgettable portrayal of the political intrigue and government betrayal that ignited the only violent conflict between two American armies.
Foreword Magazine Book-of-the-Year Finalist Chaucer Award Book-of-the-Year Finalist indieBRAG Medallion Honoree
Praise for The Yanks are Starving:
"[A] wonderful source of historical fact wrapped in a compelling novel." -- Historical Novel Society Reviews
"[A] vivid picture of not only men being deprived of their veterans' rights, but of their human rights as well.…Craney performs a valuable service by chronicling it in this admirable book." — Military Writers Society of America
All About Glen
Glen Craney is an author, screenwriter, journalist, and lawyer. A graduate of Indiana University Law School and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, he is the recipient of the Nicholl Fellowship Prize from the Academy of Motion Pictures and the Chaucer and Laramie First-Place Awards for historical fiction. He is also a four-time indieBRAG Medallion winner, a Military Writers Society of America Gold Medalist, a four-time Foreword Magazine Book-of-the-Year Award Finalist, and an Historical Novel Society Reviews Editor's Choice honoree. He lives in Malibu and has served as the president of the Southern California Chapter of the HNS.
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