I was only I ought to make an effort to master a grown-up writer, not idly but with concentration, following the plot and remembering who all the characters were. What I really love is a story about a group of people tied together by a joint venture, arguing, getting frustrated, forming bonds and breaking up again. Where did that passion come from?
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By Arthur Hailey. Long afterward, many would remember those two days in the first week of October with vividness and anguish. Ben Rosselli had telephoned a few of his senior executives early in the morning, catching some at home at breakfast, others soon after their arrival at work. There were a few, too, who were not executives, simply longtime employees whom old Ben thought of as his friends. Now all except Ben were assembled in the boardroom, twenty or so, talking quietly in groups, waiting.
Heads turned. The man had come in with decanters of sherry which he was pouring into glasses. Heyward, austere, Olympian in FMA, was a zealous teetotaler. He glanced pointedly at his watch in a gesture which said clearly: Not only drinking, but this early. Several who had been reaching out for the sherry withdrew their hands. And he especially ordered the best sherry. A stocky figure, fashionably dressed in light gray, turned and said easily, Whatever time it is, no sense passing up the best.
Alex Vandervoort, blue-eyed and fair-haired with a touch of gray at the temples, was also an executive vice-president.
Genial and informal, his easygoing, with-it ways belied the tough decisiveness beneath. The two men—Heyward and Vandervoort—represented the second management echelon immediately below the presidency and, while each was seasoned and capable of co-operation, they were, in many ways, rivals.
Their rivalry, and differing viewpoints, permeated the bank, giving each a retinue of supporters at lower levels. Edwina saw Heyward glance toward her, disapproving. Well, it made little difference, she thought. Roscoe knew she was a loyalist in the Vandervoort camp. He appeared about to say something more, then changed his mind. At the boardroom doorway the vice-president for Security, Nolan Wainwright, a towering, Othello-like figure and one of two black executives present, raised his voice.
Ben Rosselli stood there, smiling slightly, as his eyes passed over the group. As always, his appearance seemed to strike a median point between a benevolent father figure and the strong solidity of one to whom thousands of fellow citizens entrusted money for safekeeping. He looked both parts, and dressed them: in statesman-banker black, with the inevitable vest, across its front a thin gold chain and fob. And it was striking how closely this man resembled the first Rosselli—Giovanni—who had founded the bank in the basement of a grocery store a century ago.
The here-and-now Rosselli had the silver hair and mustache, almost as luxuriant. Fashion across a century had revolved full circle.
But what no reproduction showed was the family drive which all Rossellis had possessed and which, with ingenuity and boundless energy, raised First Mercantile American to its present eminence. Today, though, in Ben Rosselli the usual liveliness seemed missing. He was walking with the aid of a cane; no one present had seen him do so before.
But Nolan Wainwright, who was nearest, moved more quickly. The security chief swung the chair around, its high back to the boardroom table. With a murmur of thanks the president settled into it. Ben Rosselli waved a hand to the others.
This is informal. If you like, pull chairs around. Ah, thank you. The last remark was to the waiter from whom he accepted a glass of sherry. The man went out, closing the boardroom doors behind him. He motioned with his sherry glass. The question is—what? Ben Rosselli again smiled fleetingly. I wish this were a celebration, Alex. He paused, and suddenly a new tension permeated the room.
It was evident to everyone now that this was no ordinary meeting. Faces mirrored uncertainty, concern. I thought all of you should know.
He raised his own glass, contemplated it, and took a sip of sherry. Where the boardroom had been quiet before, now the silence was intense. No one moved or spoke. Exterior sounds intruded faintly; the muted tapping of a typewriter, an air-conditioning hum; somewhere outside a whining jet plane climbed above the city.
Old Ben leaned forward on his cane. He paused and suddenly all the frailty and fatigue showed. More softly he added, So now that you know, and as and when you choose, you can pass the word to others. The moment the boardroom emptied, what they had just heard would spread through the bank, and beyond, like prairie fire.
The news would affect many—some emotionally, others more prosaically. But mostly she was dazed and sensed the reaction of others was the same. Ben, one of the older men volunteered. Pop Monroe was a senior clerk in the trust department, and his voice was wavering.
Ben, I guess you floored us good. I reckon nobody knows what the hell to say. And medical science can achieve a great deal in halting, even curing …. Yes, I would, Heyward said. But we should remember there is a higher power than doctors and it must be the duty of us all —he glanced pointedly around the room— to pray to God for mercy, or at least more time than you believe.
About celebrating? Forget it! The old man chuckled. Besides, why not? He patted his suit coat pockets, then looked around him. Anybody have a cigarette?
Those doctors cut me off. Ben Rosselli looked at him sardonically but failed to answer. Alex Vandervoort lighted the cigarette which the bank president took. At a time like this there are some things to be glad of, Ben said. Being given a little warning is one, the chance to tie loose ends.
Smoke from his cigarette curled around him. You sit and think about those, too. No one had to be told of one regret—Ben Rosselli had no heir. An only son had been killed in action in World War II; more recently a promising grandson had died amid the senseless waste of Vietnam. A fit of coughing seized the old man. Nolan Wainwright, who was nearest, reached over, accepted the cigarette from shaking fingers and stubbed it out.
Now it became evident how weakened Ben Rosselli really was, how much the effort of today had tired him. They went to him individually, shaking his hand gently, groping for words to say. Roscoe Heyward was one of the first to leave the boardroom. The executive vice-president-comptroller had two urgent objectives, resulting from what he had just learned. The second objective was to ensure his own appointment as president and chief executive. Heyward was already a strong candidate.
So was Alex Vandervoort and possibly, within the bank itself, Alex had the larger following. However, on the board of directors, where it counted most, Heyward believed his own support was greater. Now he headed for his office suite, paneled rooms with deep beige broadloom and a breathtaking view of the city far below.
Seated at his desk, he summoned the senior of his two secretaries, Mrs. Callaghan, and gave her rapid-fire instructions. The first was to reach by telephone all outside directors, whom Roscoe Heyward would talk to, one by one. He had a list of directors on the desk before him. Apart from the special phone calls, he was not to be disturbed.
Another instruction was to close the outer office door as she left—in itself unusual since FMA executives observed an open-door tradition, begun a century ago and stolidly upheld by Ben Rosselli. That was one tradition which had to go. Privacy, at this moment, was essential. Both directors were personal friends of Ben Rosselli—obviously the reason they had been called in.
The Moneychangers is cliched, lurid and utterly absorbing
I read this book a few decades ago. Thought the references to bank technology is dated, the storyline runs true even today. Greedy bank executives and Board vs. Guess who wins, for a change? Intrigue, Wheeler-dealing in Bank As the day begins at First Mercantile American Bank, so do the high-stake risks, the public scandals, and the private affairs. It is the inside world where secret The Moneychangers.
By Arthur Hailey. Long afterward, many would remember those two days in the first week of October with vividness and anguish. Ben Rosselli had telephoned a few of his senior executives early in the morning, catching some at home at breakfast, others soon after their arrival at work. There were a few, too, who were not executives, simply longtime employees whom old Ben thought of as his friends. Now all except Ben were assembled in the boardroom, twenty or so, talking quietly in groups, waiting. Heads turned. The man had come in with decanters of sherry which he was pouring into glasses.
Arthur Hailey's the Moneychangers
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