THE LIFE AND DEATH OF WILLIAM FARO
The iron door closed heavily behind me. The sound of a huge key rasped in the lock. I looked straight ahead of me, and about me. I was in a vast steel cage about twenty-five feet square. The bars, set six or eight inches apart, and making the web of walls and ceiling, must have been a half an inch in diameter. There were about thirty narrow, iron beds, covered with a brown army blanket, in three rows; approximately a foot of space between every two beds. The long steel platform in front, must be, I conjectured, the common dining table.
Behind the guard and myself followed another prisoner with a mattress and two blankets. "We're a little crowded right now," explained the guard. "But some of these mugs will be leaving soon. Until there's a bed vacant, you'll have to get along on the floor. Don't worry. You'll like it."
"Four months of this," ran through my mind. There were prisoners ranged in odd groups about several of the beds. Card and checker games were in progress at the sides and ends of the long steel dining table. I might wander into one of these groups and, providentially, lose myself. But no, I was too tired. I turned to inquire of the guard if it was against the rules to lie down in the daytime, but he was already gone.
I arranged the blankets over my mattress, where the prisoner had dropped them, and lay down. But sleep I could not. I lay, instead, for I don't know how long, maybe an hour, maybe two, in that terrible borderland between sleep and waking in which the tortured mind places itself on trial before and dumb and paralysed court of shadows. It must have been the agony of my body that forced the opening of my eyes; I sat up.
The afternoon had darkened considerably, but it was still daylight by which the world was apparent. On the bed next to which my mattress had been placed sat a grave middle-aged man reading the latest issue of The Nation. How shall I explain to you the nature of the relief which suddenly swept through me at this sight? Even if you disagree with the editorial opinions of The Nation (as I do so often, especially when they relate to me or my business) you should understand what it meant to me to see someone reading it. There is only this to say: it gave me courage to know that someone who occupied that beastly cage with me wanted to read such a paper, and that the authorities in charge had no objection to it. The man had evidently been observing me, too, for his eyes met mine as I looked up, and he greeted me in a mellow, matter-of-fact voice.
"How're you feeling, Roth?" Another miracle. Someone knew me.
"A lot better than I did a moment ago, I can tell you. You weren't here when I came in, were you?"
"No, I work in the kitchen downstairs. I've just got back. My name's Bill Paro."
"Glad to know you, Bill. So you're in the kitchen. What sort of grub do they dish out here to the guests of the government?"
"Pretty terrible stuff, unless you happen to be lucky enough to have a job downstairs in the kitchen, the laundry, or the commissary. Then you can eat what they cook for the warden and the guards. If you think you'd like it, I'll try to get you one of those jobs."
"No, thanks. There's a book I've been wanting to write all my life. I think I'll take advantage of this enforced vacation to at least get into it. Who knows, I might, here in prison, be able to accomplish what I have not been able to even approach with all the freedom of the outside world. It will have been worth while eating the rubbish they'll serve me up here if I can turn my prison-sentence into a fine book."
"Alright," he said. "You go ahead with your writing. Maybe I can arrange to smuggle some good food to you. It's been known to be done here."
Bill was not an idle promiser. Before his release several weeks later, he had not only managed to get some fairly decent food delivered to me, but he had done many more things to befriend me, and to make my stay at U. S. Detention Headquarters more bearable. About himself, I had learned from him that, as the result of a series of misunderstandings, he had become estranged from his wife and four children. The loss of his position in the U. S. Post Office, held for nearly thirty years, was to him a catastrophe trivial by comparison with this bitterer loss. The only thing he really wanted to accomplish in life was to regain the respect and affection of his wife and children.
I wanted to do something for Bill Paro in return for his considerations to me. On the morning of his release I called him over and talked over his prospects with him.
"I don't know," he said dubiously. "It seems to be pretty hard for everybody out there if you judged by the newspapers. I wonder what there can be for an ex-convict past fifty to look forward to?"
"Tell you what, Bill," I said. "I like you, and it would please me very much if I could help you. I think I can. When you get out of here, do your best to find work. If you're still jobless when I am released, come to see me."
You cannot have completely forgotten what things were like in 1930, after the three celebrated Wall Street crashes. Bill Paro was among the first people to greet me when I finally reached home after an additional eight weeks in Philadelphia. He was not only out of work but in a pitiable state of destitution.
"I'm going to give you a job, Bill," I told him. "And it's going to be more than a mere job. I'm abandoning the publishing of special and limited editions, to go into general publishing. To do that, I'll have to organize a new corporation. I'm going to organize the new corporation in your name, with you as president. The company will be known as William Paro, Inc. Your salary will be exactly what you'll be worth – you'll start at twenty dollars a week. But I'm going to do my best to teach you the publishing business, and your salary will go up as your usefulness increases. We'll make William Paro, Inc. among the most successful businesses of its kind in America. And then I dare your family to keep up its aloofness to you. What do you say?"
It was fully a minute before Bill could find the words with which to thank me.
I had my attorneys file papers of incorporation. Bill was to join me and my wife several days later in signing them in the offices of my attorney. On the morning set for the signing, he met me in the lobby of the office-building. He was obviously agitated. "I'm afraid I can't sign, Sam," he said dolefully.
I was surprised.
Paro proceeded to explain. "I'd really like to, Sam. But I had a talk with a friend of mine about it. He's a lawyer. He pointed out to me that you have many enemies and that you've already lost several decisions on books. If I went in with you, I'd be liable to prosecution whenever anyone thought a book of yours was objectionable. And if you lost a case I'd get a long stretch as a second offender."
I could not quarrel with Bill. What he said appeared to me entirely reasonable. But I wanted no further delays, especially in the matter of the incorporation of my new business. My first book for the trade was already being set up. I had to put an imprint on it. I had to make plans for its sale. To save the need of filing new papers for incorporation that might be necessitated by the change of names, I suggested to my attorney that he simply wire Albany to change the P into an F, and that I would undertake to answer to the name of William Faro.
In view of the amount of scurrilous lying that has been done on the subject, especially in a book entitled The Truth About Hoover, I offer the above as a true account of the genesis of William Faro, Inc.
* * * * * * * * * *
The first publication of the new company was my revised version of D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover.
This novel had become, without being made accessible to the general reader, one of the most famous books in the world. Because of the attitude of our laws, the objectionable words in the story made it anybody's property. It was apparent to me as well as to several other publishers, that there was a vast market for a cleverly revised edition. If Lady Chatterley's Lover were revised so as not to impair either the narrative or its vitality, it might even become one of the sensations of a publishing season. The biggest of the publishers, however, had decided against the enterprise, on the theory that only Lawrence, now dead, could have accomplished such a change in the book. So I set myself the task of doing it.
The usual procedure in such a matter is to ask for permission from the author, or, the author being dead, his estate. But to do so, I decided, would be to recharge outside interest in the project and lead, possibly, to its issuance by one of the bigger publishers capable of making a heavy advance of royalty. I remembered how it was with the publishing of The Well of Loneliness in America. Alfred A. Knopf had set the book up; but, upon the solicitations of the vice crusader, had abandoned publication. For a time it looked as if the book would be completely abandoned. Then I put in a bid for it. Instantly other bids began coming in, and I lost out to Covici-Friede.
I therefore proceeded with my work of revision and publishing, without proper authorization; and, without as much as a newspaper announcement of my intention, threw the book on the market where it became a favorite overnight. My best hopes for it were realized. For not only did the book sell rapidly; it was granted on all sides that I had accomplished my revision without real injury to the book either as a sustained story or as a work of art. One of my first acts in opening the books of William Faro, Inc. was to create a royalty account payable to the D. H. Lawrence estate.
The instant success of my very first trade book was gall and wormwood to both my seniors in the publishing business, and the conductors of literary reviews who had sworn enmity to me and mine on other, older scores long before. They raised a hue and cry about my having tampered with a work of art without having consulted the corpse of its author, and in other ways made a bloody nuisance of themselves. Well, they couldn't threaten me into being respectful towards them. Nor could they stay me from continuing to make money. But one thing they could do, and did: they could blackball my future publications. And when my next two publications, Celestine, a Chambermaid's Diary by Octave Mirbeau, and Body by Daniel Quilter, appeared, they were reviewed in a manner that can only be described as vicious vilification.
Encouraged by the hostility of the press towards me, my old friend the vice crusader grew bold, and, in the May of 1931, swooped down on my offices at 96 Fifth Avenue, arrested me and a member of my staff, and accused us of publishing, in Lady Chatterley's Lover, Celestine and Body books of a lascivious and filthy nature. The book came, luckily, before Magistrate William Dodge, an intelligent man and a fearless judge who dismissed the case as unwarranted by the books themselves, which had been placed before him for examination.
Defending myself and the books cost me over two thousand dollars. But I felt that it was fully worth it. Once and for all time it bad to be proven to the vice crusader that the courts would not sustain him as a censor of literature. I was advised on all sides to sue him for false arrest, but I did not feel that I wanted that. I had beaten him beautifully and decisively. That was enough for me.
I celebrated my triumph over organized virtue by publishing, next, a collection of the short stories of the columnist Mark Hellinger. I had been an interested observer of Hellinger's career from his genesis in The Daily News to his settling down to the maturer and more deeply humorous incidents in his columns in The Daily Mirror. I had not succumbed to the easy temptation to underrate his particular kind of charm because he had happened to use a tabloid as his medium. I was afraid only, when the enterprise first occurred to me, that Hellinger might be too prejudiced against me by what he had read in the literary columns to let me publish a book of his. I could not, as a matter of simple pride, undertake to argue .him out of whatever notion of me might have been preconceived for him by his friends. But nothing could stop me from telling him why I liked his sketches and why I thought they'd make an excellent book. I did. And though he had heard of my reputation as the enfant terrible in publishing, and had offers from some of the bigger publishers, he was sportsmanlike enough to see me in my own light as a creative publisher, and let me have his book. The only other author whose work I have enjoyed publishing as much as Hellinger's is Voltaire who has been dead several centuries. At this writing, Hellinger is only sporting a crutch.
The success of Moon Over Broadway (the title of the Hellinger book), which I saw through four editions, encouraged me to produce a dollar reprint of Venus In Furs by Sachor-Massoch, a translation of Lila and Colette by Catulle Mendes and a prose poem by Anthony Gudaitis entitled A Young Man About to Commit Suicide. These books were certainly not produced with only a hope of profits in view. They were not the sort of books one can hope to make much money on, in the first place. But when a publisher has made money on one book he is tempted to get out a few purely good books as a sort of altar-offering to the angry gods of the publishing business, or by the way of showing that he is not insensible to the more delicate aspects of his business.
* * * * * * * * * *
The next big phase of the life of William Faro, Inc. was the publication of The Strange Career of Mr. Hoover: Under Two Flags by John Hamill. There has been as much lying about this as there has been about every other part of my business; so I shall tell you how it came about.
There was during the winter of 1930, in the Mayfair Theatre building, a book shop conducted by a young man who had frequented my wife's ill-fated Book Auction at 28 East 12th Street. I liked talking to him about books, and whenever I saw a movie in the vicinity of Broadway I made it my business to drop into the Mayfair book shop for a chat.
One night this young man told me of a strange man who had walked that day into his shop, with a manuscript. "A strange-looking Irishman, Sam. And what do you think the manuscript is about?" I could not guess.
"Indeed. What's the matter with little Herbie?"
"I can't say exactly. Coherence is not one of this man's solid virtues. But he seems to have some sort of case against him. If half of what he says that I understand is true his book should be of excited interest to any publisher. I told him about you, of course, and he's anxious to get together with you. Would you care to meet him?"
I met Hamill (for he it was) at this book store one afternoon several days later, and took him to drink beer with me at Steuben's around the corner. He told me that the President, long before the inception of his political career in America, had been associated with numerous questionable business enterprises that would seem to make him unfit for another four years of the high office he was holding in Washington. "The country will be interested," he said. "The question is, have you the guts to publish the facts?"
"If the facts are facts," I said, "I will publish them. You will have to first of all convince me of their genuineness. Then I will have to see a good reason for bringing out such a book in the midst of an economic crisis."
"I can only undertake to give you the facts," he said gruffly, and went away.
A few days later, according to promise, he appeared at my office in 96 Fifth Avenue. He had with him the facsimiles of court documents that fairly opened my eyes. There was no doubting the truth of Hamill's assertions. As for good cause to publish the book, a local wag was singing "Four years more of Hoover and Ghandi will be a well-dressed man," and that seemed good enough cause for the while. I could visualize a book that would open the eyes not only of America but of the whole civilized world.
When I announced my intention to publish this book, nearly everyone was horrified. Of all my undertakings, it was declared, this was certainly the maddest. Mr. Hoover, it was painstakingly pointed out to me, was one of the richest men in the world, and his position certainly made him the most powerful. Even if everything in my book were true, it could have no chance of success. The newspapers would certainly refuse to advertise it. The book reviewing columns would give it scant encouragement. I would be lucky to be able to get even a few obscure book stores to handle it. On the other hand, as punishment to me for daring to bring the book out, there was no means of calculating in advance what ills might not befall me.
My reply to all this was to make a contract with John Hamill. Besides the usual royalty arrangement (and, because he knew nothing about that end of it, I gave him a better contract than I had ever given an author) I paid him fifty dollars a week for the ten weeks in which he was to write the book. There must, under the circumstances, be someone courageous enough to publish such things. If not I, who?
A few days before the actual appearance of the book, an attorney who was at that time advising me, proposed that, since nothing would keep me from doing this rash thing, it would be safer and wiser for me to withdraw from the company. "I have looked through your book," he said, "and I have no reason to doubt its truthfulness or your sincerity. But I must warn you at the very start that you are leaving one very wide loophole through which the enemy may be able to get you and even destroy you. Yourself. Suppose your facts are unassailable, as I believe they are? Then your fight is won – unless they can divert interest to a phase of the book which is not invulnerable – the character of its publisher. They'll just have to pretend, in order to defeat you, that the arguments are unworthy of notice because they are advanced by a man who has served three prison sentences. No one will ask why you served the sentences; if you try to explain no one will listen to you. Prison sentences are forgiven only in the heroic dead."
"What would you have me do?" I asked.
"Resign from William Faro, Inc. Then let them dare drag you into the issue."
I considered the matter. "I can see your point," I said. "But it doesn't seem to me good sportsmanship to attack a man and keep one's self entirely safe from attack. Don't you see," I added, "that if I were not already an officer of the corporation publishing this book, it would be morally necessary for me to become one?"
My lawyer could not see anything other than that I was laying myself open to an attack that would once more give my enemies an unfair advantage over me. All I could see on my side, however, was that if there were any evil consequences to be suffered as a result of the publication of the book, I should be there to take them. I wish now I had not been filled with so much airy bravado.
For weeks after the appearance of The Strange Career I could not take a step outside of my office and home without being followed by a member of the Department of justice. Even on the sidewalks of the city I was jostled, harangued and threatened. My private and office telephone were tapped and listened in on. The Post Office sent its inspectors to search through my books for guilty stains of obscenity, and my mailings were so hampered that for a while I had to give them up altogether. The climax came when one morning, on entering my office in the penthouse of 1140 Broadway, five men who had evidently been waiting, rose to greet me.
"I'm from the income-tax department," said one of them showing a Federal badge.
"What is it now?" I asked.
"We have a complaint," he replied, "that you have not filed income tax returns."
I smiled. "Don't you know?" I asked.
"We're here to find out," he announced breezily. "Let's see your books."
I tried to block his way to the inner office. "It seems to me that you should have definite information before you come on such an errand. Either I did file income tax reports in which case they are on file at the Custom House, or I did not. Now as a matter of fact, income tax returns have been filed my myself, my wife, and my business. I can't understand your wanting to look through my books."
The spokesman then took out a paper which he said was a search-warrant and proceeded with his followers into my more private office where they began rummaging quickly through all the books they could lay their hands on. To this day I do not know the object of their search. After a while one of them made a pretense of calling up the custom house where, he told me, they had just found the mislaid income tax reports. When I showed the warrant to my attorney the following day he pointed out to me that it was fraudulent, for it had not been made out as of a definite date.
But all my troubles did not come from the subject of the book. Its author was the source of some real embarrassment to me. It appears now that before he came to me, John Hamill had approached a certain ex-policeman, with Democratic connections in Brooklyn, and had interested him, as he was later to interest me. They had come to an agreement whereby the ex-policeman was to write a book from Hamill's facts, publish it and give Hamill a substantial share of the profits. In compliance with his part of the contract, the ex-policeman had financed for Hamill a trip to England, advancing him more than two thousand dollars.
You will therefore have no difficulty understanding this ex-policeman's indignation when he learned that Hamill himself had written a book and that someone else was due to make the major publisher's profits therefrom. I had, of course, never heard of him or of his arrangement with Hamill whose contract with me assured me that no one else had any claim whatever on his manuscript. When the ex-policeman wrote me about it and demanded that I immediately abandon the project I could only sympathize with his loss, for I had already invested even more than he had, in advances to the author, in setting the book up in type, in printing, paper and binding. I could not see that it was my moral obligation to throw away all this because Mr. Hamill, playing no favorites, had lied both to the ex-policeman and myself.
I discussed with my attorney at great length a plan whereby we might compel Mr. Hamill to repay the ex-policeman out of the royalties earned by the book. But my attorney had no sooner introduced himself to the ex-policeman in court than the latter assumed such an unruly and violent attitude that it became clear that it would be impossible to deal with him on that basis. Our defense against the ex-policeman's attempt to enjoin the sale of the book cost me thousands of dollars in attorney's fees. But that was not the worst of it. It gave the friends of the President, who were otherwise at a loss as how to defend him against the accusations in the book, an easy way to belittle. It was only necessary to point out to a gaping country that the author of the book was an obvious liar and cheat: almost a whole issue of Colliers and several serious books were devoted to this sort of thing, which had its effect by retarding the sale of the book.
But Mr. Hamill had not yet reached the highest development of his peculiar character. He had sold out the ex-policeman's interest to me. He was yet to sell out my interests bodily to the friends of the President.
One morning I received a telephone call from a New York Republican ward leader, whom I knew slightly. If I would have lunch with him, he said, there was something of great interest to be revealed to me.
As we were eating he asked me if I had given thought to what would happen to me if the President failed to be re-elected.
"Why should that worry me?" I asked.
"It is pretty well known that the President feels that your book has done more to prejudice the country against him than anything else. If he's defeated, he'll blame it on you and prosecute you."
"Prosecute me for what?" I asked with astonishment.
"But there is no libel," I cried, "and every one of you damn well know it."
My friend across the table looked shrewdly at me. "Did you know," he inquired blandly, "that John Hamill has confessed that the whole of his book is a fabrication of his own, intended to harm the President?"
"I don't know, and I don't care," I declared. "I didn't believe Hamill to begin with. I might have libelled Hoover if I had published everything Hamill wanted me to publish. But I only published what appeared to me true from indisputable documents and company reports. What difference does it make to me how many confessions Hamill signs?"
I called up Hamill that same day. He denied the allegation vehemently, but there was something suspicious about his very vehemence. A few days later Mr. Hoover delivered his famous Cleveland speech in which he referred to the Confession. Then there was no doubt in my mind that Hamill had once more given rein to his peculiar imagination.(30)
But even that speech did not save Mr. Hoover who suffered that year the deadliest defeat ever meted out to an American President who made himself a candidate for a second term. I had braved so much in publishing the book; it had given me so much trouble, that 1 looked on the outcome of the election of 1932 as a sort of personal triumph. I had favored Mr. Smith against Hoover in 1928, when my imprisonment made it impossible for me even to vote. And I had not only survived that unjust imprisonment. I had materially helped to defeat Hoover far more seriously than he had defeated Smith.
* * * * * * * * * *
The financial success of The Strange Career made it possible for me to realize one of the earliest ambitions of my life, to publish in a smaller and more beautiful format, the ten volumes of Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary which had been the chief literary and ethical guide of my boyhood. I realized that thus far my success had always been due to the intrinsic sensationalism of my publications: whatever sales I achieved came in spite of the discouragement of the reviewers. Voltaire's work required a greater investment than I had ever made in one enterprise, and it was in no way sensational. Had I the right to risk it? The truth is that I thought I had a pretty good knowledge of how far the literary press would go to hurt my business. They might, I said to myself, justify themselves in snubbing my ventures into sensationalism, dipt though they are in the gold of glamour and adventure. But how could they disregard an enterprise of such a purely literary and philosophical nature?
I had the Dictionary set in two magnificent volumes. The setting cost nearly two thousand dollars. By the time the edition had gone through the bindery it had cost me over four thousand dollars, almost half of my cash savings. Then I launched it, to learn that I had underestimated, in my enemies, either their hatred of me or the extent of their indifference to literary values. The Philosophical Dictionary evoked no comment at all in the press. Because I was its publisher, The New York Times did not even mention the book. Voltaire's great work got less reviewing from the press of the Hansens, the Gannetts and the Soskins that I would have got if I had reprinted a cheap thriller from one of the pulp magazines. The whole edition fell dead at my feet the very first week I issued it.
With my funds getting thinner and thinner, I continued to issue books in the hope of hitting one that would make up for the loss sustained by me in the publishing of the Philosophical Dictionary. I published two magnificent biographies: the Life of Pope Joan, and The Adventure of Fritz Duquesne, both by Clement Wood. The shifting about of the chronicles of the Church of Rome so as to make it appear that Joan never really lived had always seemed to me like murder. In Clement Wood I found for the loveliest of the world's fair scholars a champion to my heart's content. The Woman Who Was Pope must eventually take its place with the very finest biographies ever written. It was Wood himself who mentioned to me Duquesne's name for the first time. I was instantly fascinated by the story of the man who, to punish it for the rape of his family and fortune during the Boer War by a Kitchener regiment, had sworn vengeance against the British Empire and fought it single-handed for over thirty years, and I asked Wood to write the story for me, which he did in The Man Who Killed Kitchener, with such grace and vigor.
I also published the autobiography of Lord Alfred Douglas and the memoirs of my friend Dr. Ralcy Husted Bell. But business was getting worse and worse. And, due to the silence of the press concerning my publications, they were not catching on. Then a manuscript come to me through the mails which promised to get me out of my financial difficulties. It was an ugly scandal which involved one of the three great motor magnates of America; and moreover, a story of a grave injustice, a bigamous marriage and false imprisonment which the motor magnate had spent a fortune to keep from the public. And there it was in my hands, written by a close relation of the motor magnate.
I hesitated to publish the book for only one reason: the injustice did not seem to me important enough to warrant a whole book being devoted to it. With a book I had just helped to save my country from the strangling hold of a man who had all his life been a menace to the finest things in our civilization. Was I now to expend the same amount of energy in order to iron out a petty quarrel? But undoubtedly there would be tremendous national interest in the story, and I had almost decided to publish it when something happened to stop me.
I was in Cafe Royal one night when a young Jewish publisher whom I knew but did not particularly like, walked in. Nevertheless, when he asked me what was troubling me, I told him about it.
"Going to use real names?" he asked.
"Well, you'll make money alright," he said drily.
"You think people will really be interested?"
"What do you care whether people will be interested? That's not why you're publishing it, is it?"
"I can't see any other reason."
"Stop trying to kid me, Roth. You know that motor magnate will give you at least a hundred thousand to withdraw the book from sale."
I discussed the matter no further with him. But my mind was made up. My business might if it liked, go to the devil. But I was never going to publish that book.
Well, my business did go – to the Jews.
Towards the end of the year 1932, 1 realized that the business of William Faro, Inc, was sliding into real trouble. It had outstanding, and payable over a period of three months, notes aggregating some seventeen thousand dollars. My estimated income during three months, as business was at that time, would be sufficient to meet only about a third of that amount. Our chief creditors were: a printer, a binder, a linotyper who set most of the type of our books and a paper house, which had supplied us with all the paper for our books. We owed various small sums to other concerns, too, but the records of them would be, of no consequence to this story.
There seemed to me no cause for alarm, either to me or my creditors. Our stock of books, under any kind of liquidation, was worth at least forty thousand dollars. Besides that, there were tons of linotype metal, and valuable copyrights.
The solution to this difficulty seemed to me very simple. The production of new books must come to an end. I must begin to liquidate the stock we had on hand, and arrange extensions of time on the notes held by our creditors. At the rate money was coming, it might take nine months for us to meet all of our obligations. But since nearly every other business in town was in pretty much the same position, I did not doubt that the creditors of William Faro, Inc. would cooperate with us. I had done, I could tell them in all sincerity, what under the circumstances was pretty nearly heroic. I had withdrawn all of my family savings from the bank and thrown them into the business. No one could go further than that-just for a business.
When I came to my creditors I encountered, apparently, difficulties only inherent in the financial situation. The printers and binders, having been hard hit themselves, had disposed of all of my notes to third parties. The linotyper made arrangements with me to collect the balance of the moneys due him at the rate of fifty dollars a week for ten weeks, and a hundred dollars a week thereafter, until some seventeen hundred dollars was paid up. The paper house owned by a German-Jew, made a similar arrangement with me, by which it was to get a hundred dollars a week. Since the amount owed the latter was in excess of four thousand dollars, I mortgaged to it the standing type of eight of my best books.
According to what I had learned in Perok (in the Wisdom of the Fathers) when I was a boy, my association with these people was in itself proof of my guilt, and my worthiness to keep my business. Perok says: If a man is brought before you in a court of law, accused by one or more of his fellows of irregularity of conduct, regard him as guilty until he has managed to prove his innocence. The sense of this stern admonition is this. A man who is brought to court by associates in business is at least guilty of associating with the sort of people he cannot arrange things with amicably outside of court. But let me not make the mistake of characterising these people. Let their actions do that for them.
During the first years of my business association with the binder whom we will call Parrach, he did business as The Art Bindery. Later, merging his business with that of two other binders, he began billing me as Union Binderies. This was followed soon by the Parrach Bindery, which in a few months gave way to still a fourth name. It is about a half a year since I have seen a billhead of his, so there is no telling how many other names Parrach has worked under since. It was during the Union Binderies period that something sinister occurred which would have warned any sensible publisher of danger. Robert Sherwood, a wholesaler of books at 24 Beekman Street, called me on the telephone and informed me that a young man had just offered to sell him fifty copies of a $3.75 book of mine for seventy five dollars.
"What did you say to him?" I asked.
"I told him to bring me the books at four o'clock and I'd buy them from him. You can then do anything you like with him." At four o'clock two men from police headquarters saw a dark young man tow in a package containing fifty copies of my book. When he had taken the seventy-five dollars in cash from Mr. Sherwood, they nabbed him, marched him to the nearest station house and called for me.
When they pointed him out to me I did not recognize him. But he had no hesitation in recalling himself to me. "You don't recognize me," he said, "because I am usually in work clothes when you come into the shop. I work in the shop. I'm —'s son."
He named one of Parrach's partners.
"And how long," I asked him, "have you been a partner in try business?"
He swore that this was his maiden effort. He had only done it because business was so bad that neither he nor his father had been able to draw pay for four weeks. His mother was dangerously ill. He had just taken his bar exams. If, because of this charge being pressed against him, he would not be admitted to the practice of law, it would literally kill his mother.(31)
Instinctively I knew that the Jew was lying. There was a huge discrepancy between the number of books we had printed and the number which had been delivered to us by Parrach. It ran into thousands of books. Still, even though there was only the faintest chance that he was telling the truth I would not press the charge. I could not risk being the author of such awful consequences, even to regain so much money. And so I did not press the charge, and the police freed him.
I was a fool, of course, to let him go. It was my only chance to get an honest reckoning from Parrach and get rid of him altogether. Furthermore, by nipping this young Jew's career in the bud, I would have prevented another Jew vulture from infesting the courts of the State of New York. I repent this more than anything else. If the New York Bar Association has any interest in this matter, I am prepared to turn the facts over to it, in full.
* * * * * * * * * *
One by one I met the people who had taken over the notes we had given the printer and the binder. In almost every case, when I had explained the situation and offered a scheme of payment, there was no difficulty coming to an arrangement. But occasionally I would run into trouble. Usually it was some lawyer – a Jew shyster.
A typical instance concerns a note for a hundred and fifty dollars I had given the printer, who had in turn paid it over to his attorney, a crafty old Jew with an office on lower Fifth Avenue. This printer still assures me that he gets along marvelously with him, but my experience with this lawyer was singularly depressing.
We will call him Counsellor Pinsky. I tried to explain to Counsellor Pinsky over the telephone just how things stood, but he would not listen to me.
"I don't care how bad business is," said Counsellor Pinsky. "I want cash for my note and I want cash immediately."
"But why don't you let me come to see you," I pleaded. "I'm sure we can arrange things amicably."
He seemed to consider my suggestion. "Alright, then. How long will you remain at your office?"
"I'll wait for you till you come," I said.
"Ill be over in twenty minutes," he assured me.
In less than twenty minutes a young woman walked into my office and announced that she was from the office of Counsellor Pinsky. Having been introduced to me by my secretary, she handed me – a summons.
In the midst of this difficulty, Parrach, the binder, came to me with a summons from his attorney, whom we will call Mr. Black. It was a matter of the utmost importance that I see him and talk things over with him.
The first thing you notice when you come into Counsellor Black's office is a picture of his wife on his desk: a matronly Jewish woman who you feel could allow herself to be the wife only of a man of the utmost austerity. The office of a Jewish lawyer is usually devised with great cunning. In addition to the stock portraits of George Washington and John Marshall, there is usually a picture of a child or, if possible children. If the lawyer is unmarried he displays a picture of his mother. This is calculated to give you confidence in him. It is by way of saying: You see in me a man of family, true to all my pledges; you may speak your mind to me with the utmost confidence.
Mr. Black opened our conversation with the remark that he had been given to understand that I was having considerable difficulty with creditors.
I told him that I seemed to have been very careless in my choice of creditors. I had given several of them series of checks with the understanding that the checks were not to be deposited without my office being consulted, to ascertain that funds were available at the bank to clear them. One or two of them complied with this arrangement. The rest, pleading that necessity had compelled them to turn checks over to others, didn't. The truth was that it was difficult to persuade these Jews that when I said there was no money in the bank there really was no money. One of the minor results was that the bank had tactfully but firmly asked me to withdraw my account.
Mr. Black appeared to listen to me thoughtfully, but when he spoke suddenly I realized that his listening had been only an attitude. He had a definite plan in his mind. He had not been considering what I was saying to him.
"There is only one way out for you," said Counsellor Black with the dramatics that shyster lawyers flatter themselves with in the privacy of their offices. "As long as you continue doing things as you are doing them now, you will be in hot water. Here is a solid idea and a sure way out for you. Form a new corporation. Turn over to this new corporation all of the stock of William Faro, Inc. Then let the new firm dictate terms to your old creditors."
"I don't see," I remarked, "what difference it will make to my creditors under what name I trade, since it will still be the same business."
"That's just it," said Mr. Black. "It will be the same business, but your creditors will have to accept new terms because you will not be running the business under the new name."
"And who, may I ask, will be running the new business?"
"Oh, we'll find someone to run it. We'll hold the stock of the new corporation in escrow for you in the interest of my clients till I the old debts are paid off, that is to say your debts to my clients."
"And who," I asked him, "are our clients?"
He named the binder and the paper house.
"And what about my other creditors?"
"They would have to wait till my clients are paid and the business is restored to you."
"But suppose you never fully clear the debts of your clients? Then you need never restore my business to me. Isn't that so?"
Counsellor Black looked hurt. "Don't you trust us?" he asked softly.
I rose to go. "I don't like your plan," I said. "It does not seem to me to be either rational or necessary. My business is worth a hundred thousand dollars. I owe your clients about five thousand dollars, which is fully secured to them. Is it reasonable that I should be asked to turn over to you a business worth a hundred thousand dollars so that they may collect a twentieth of it and ruin it utterly?"
"But the fact is that you are not meeting your obligations," he argued.
"I am meeting my obligations," I replied. "But like everybody else nowadays, I am taking a little more time doing so. Forgive me if I can't stay any longer. I don't think following your advice will get me out of my present difficulties. On the contrary, I can see worse difficulties I might get into."
Back at the office, when I returned, I found the agent for the paper house, an ugly little socialist-Jew with burlesque Jewish accent and manners. "Well how did you make out with Black?" he asked.
I told him what had happened.
He seemed chagrined. "It's a good idea," he muttered. "You should have taken it."
I told him it would be quite useless to argue the point with me. "I don't like the whole business. I don't see how I happen to have got mixed up with a lot of plug-uglies like you and your friend Parrach to begin with. I shall sacrifice a lot of my stock at lower prices and see if I can't get rid of both of you."
I said this in the manner of jest, but there was real feeling behind my words. The ugly little socialist-Jew whom I shall refer to as Isaac Ratte pretended not to notice my rancor. "If you're going to liquidate," he said, "I've got another proposition for you. Why don't you get someone to help you?"
"Anyone who could help me," I said, "would cost too much."
The socialist-Jew seemed to brighten. "Well, there's Lousse. He worked for you before, and understands your business. I met him a few days ago and he and his wife are literally starving. He told me he'd work for you now for twenty dollars a week."
It was certainly true that I had taken a great deal more work on myself than I could possibly do well. I was helping my wife run four branch outlet stores along Broadway in addition to all my other duties as a publisher. But I was not so pleased with the suggestion about Lousse who had left my employ at about the time I issued the book on Hoover. It was just such a plea (that he and his wife were starving) made to me by a loose-thighed Jewess I met in Cafe Royal, that had procured his first job with me. His work had been satisfactory to a point; but he had always given me the impression that he was planning how to steal my business away from me, so that when he announced that he wanted to go into business for himself I was inwardly happy to get rid of him. The prospect of re-employing him was not a bright one. But the truth was that he did know my business pretty thoroughly, and twenty dollars a week would not be too great a tax on my business. At least I would not have to teach Lousse the rudiments of my business.
I paid out nearly five thousand dollars of the obligations of William Faro, Inc. in the next three months. Then because of an irregularity it is not necessary to discuss here, I discharged Lousse.
* * * * * * * * * *
Two or three weeks later I was awakened at eight o'clock one morning by the ringing of the doorbell of my apartment. I opened the door only slightly and asked who it was. A young woman came within full view of me and asked if I was Mr. Roth. I said I was but that she would have to wait a few minutes if she wanted to see me. "I don't have to see you," she said, and stuck a summons through the opening I had made in the doorway.
The summons was a complaint based on two notes, for two hundred dollars each which I had given to Parrach the binder. The complainant was a Yiddish bookseller on East Broadway, a Mr. Jankewitz about whom I had heard many things. I indignantly called Parrach on the telephone and asked him how he happened to have turned over those notes to this man. Parrach replied that he did not know Jankewitz. He had given the notes to Ratte who in turn had given them to Jankewitz. In answer to my call, Ratte came into see me. He had already discussed the matter with Mr. Jankewitz. It had been agreed between himself, Ratte, and Mr. Jankewitz that if I paid sixty-eight dollars in two checks of thirty four dollars each, and gave a new ninety days note for the balance, judgment would not be taken and everything would return to status quo. I saw no other way out because I could not spare the cash with which to get those notes out of the hands of Mr. Jankewitz. And so, trusting Ratte to carry out the agreement, I gave him the checks and the note and dismissed the whole unpleasant affair from my mind as something too unwholesome to entertain in a short lifetime.
But a new difficulty had arisen. Parrach, after another one of his prodigal failures, had turned his plant over to another bindery. In this bindery he was not really owner. He just collected an agent's commission for work done. The new binder had delivered to me a thousand dollars worth of work against fifteen hundred dollars in notes, the extra five hundred being advanced by me to help Parrach out of one of his usual difficulties. And just as things seemed to be going smoothly again I found it impossible to get books from the bindery.
I went to see the new binder. The trouble he said was with Parrach. Parrach was not attending to his business. When I saw Parrach he said the trouble was with the real boss of the works. He had heard that I was having difficulty in meeting my notes, and so was reluctant to let more books go out till I showed myself capable of paying some of the notes which would soon come due.
"But if I cannot get books my business will come to a standstill," I argued.
"I'm not boss here, you know that," was all I could get out of Parrach.
It became obvious that I would accomplish nothing till I got these two Jews and their stories together in the same room. I found myself spending days and weeks trying to accomplish this. Now and then I would catch one of the office force snickering behind my back. They certainly knew what was going on.
On Thursday, April 20th, Ratte, the Jew paper agent who had mysteriously disappeared after getting the check and the notes came to me with a proposition. "I understand that you can't get books from the bindery," he began innocently.
"You know why, don't you?"
"I've been told a few reasons."
"Well the truth is that the new binder is afraid of you. But there's one way you can prove to him that you don't intend to default. He knows that you have no money. But he knows that your wife has a claim for more than nine hundred dollars against the bankrupt estate of Louis K. Liggett. If you'll get Mrs. Roth to turn over this claim to us, well see to it that you get instant delivery of books."
"I wouldn't like to do that," I said. "My wife and I have already deprived ourselves of all the benefits of cash. This is a poor time to leave oneself penniless. And the money from Liggett's seems to be the only cash left for us to look forward to."
I realized by this time that there was something foul in the wind. But I had put everything I had into the pot; it would be a mistake to let the fire go out too soon. Let me not hesitate, I said to myself, over my final bit of money. If I am to get into trouble, let it not be because I hesitated to throw in everything I have. I therefore, finally, and most reluctantly, consented to let my wife turn over to the paper house, which was already fully secured, the assignment of her claim against the Liggett Estate. This assignment, we had agreed, was to be held in escrow by someone we trusted mutually until the first shipment of books came to me from the Bindery.
"No escrow arrangement will be necessary," Ratte suddenly interposed. "You'll get your first shipment tomorrow."
The following day, Friday, Ratte came to the office of WilliamFaro, Inc. in the company of Parrach. Ratte had with him the assignment for my wife to sign, pretended to be in a hurry, and Parrach assured me that he had seen a truckload of books leave the Bindery, for my warehouse. But I told them bluntly that no assignment would be signed till the books arrived. Hours passed in waiting. About once an hour someone in my office would telephone the Bindery to ask what had happened to the shipment. And someone on the other wire would always answer that it was on its way.
Then it became quite plain that all this knavish nonsense had been prearranged, I suggested that I was still ready to leave the assignment in escrow till shipment at a later date. The escrowee was settled on, a Jew who paid me twenty five dollars a month for space in my office. The agreement was drawn up by an attorney who happened accidentally on the scene. But because additional papers, showing how this money was to be accounted for by the paper house had to be drawn, the agreement could not be consummated till the following morning, Saturday, April 22nd. Ratte took the assignment from me Saturday morning. Saturday afternoon I was served by his attorney with papers asking for a receivership of the business of William Faro, Inc. The demand was based on an affidavit by the discharged Lousse that I was misappropriating the funds of the corporation with the intention of cheating my creditors. That was not all. I was to learn several days later that on Thursday of April 20th, the day before we sat around waiting all afternoon in my office for a delivery of books, all of the stock of William Faro, Inc. had been sold out on a marshall's levy to the binder for three hundred and eighteen dollars.
The marshall's levy was based on a judgment obtained against me by Jankewitz on the original summons with which I had been served. Ratte had taken my sixty eight dollars and the new note. But, without notification to me, Jankewitz had proceeded to take judgment on the note, the one for which I had already settled, and was to be returned to me.
When asked by an attorney of mine why he had not given William Faro,Inc. notice of his levy and sale, the marshall replied that he did not know our address, and that it was not possible to communicate with William Faro, Inc. In spite of the fact that I had fairly lived at the binder during the past two weeks, and that I had been there at the very time the alleged sale was supposed to have taken place. Furthermore: William Faro, Inc. was listed in at least two of New York's telephone directories.
Evidence enough here, you will say, to hang any set of conspirators. Apparently not enough, though, in the Jew-run courts of New York.
* * * * * * * * * *
This is how the papers asking for a receivership of William Faro, Inc. were served on me.
Having delivered in escrow for the paper-house the assignment of my wife's claim to the Louis K. Liggett Estate, I got a call from the bindery. If I wanted an immediate shipment of books it would be necessary for me to meet Parrach the binder at the office of the paper house.
I accompanied Ratte to his employer's headquarters where Parrach and the owner of the paper house were waiting for me. The latter, a German Jew, looked elated. I fancy that in Germany today many a Jew like him is paying heavily for just such experiments in the administration of the human spirits.
The telephone rang even as I sat down. It was a message for Parrach. Mr. Black his attorney wanted us over at his office. In view of what I had already seen of Counsellor Black, the prospect of getting together with him again was not enticing. But business had become very ugly and seeing this legal sycophant seemed to have become an essential part of it. Only Parrach accompanied me on this trip. Ratte had accomplished, to his complete satisfaction, his part of the business for the day.
No sooner was I seated before Counsellor Black's desk than, to my utter amazement, he resumed discussing the plan he had outlined to me the first time I called on him. He talked lengthily, apparently to make time. I observed him with growing perplexity. Obviously he was not really interested in his own words. I was aware of a sinister movement the very nature of which I could not guess at. Firmly he paused and looked at me.
"What's the use of going over all that?" I asked. "I now owe my creditors five thousand dollars less than I owed them when you first broached this matter to me. Surely you don't think I can be more inclined, under the circumstances, to entertain your plan?"
"But the situation has changed on our side, too," he said mysteriously.
"How?" I asked.
"I can't tell you," he said. "I can only hint to you that I am acting for a majority of your creditors. Very important things have happened, and are happening."
"That sounds like a threat," I replied. "As for your representing a majority of my creditors permit me to express a doubt."
"Then the only thing there is left for me to do is to warn you to accept my proposition."
I became angry. "If you want me to accept a proposition of yours, why not try to make an honest one? It seems to me to be very poor legal ethics for you to sit there and try to threaten me out of my business. You're not practising law."
He looked up dramatically. "What do you think I'm practising?"
"It looks to me a little more like blackmail."
He rose. "I don't care what you think of my practise. I represent your creditors, and they do not think you are competent to run your business well enough to pay them what is due them."
"Which of you," I asked, "thinks he can run my business better?"
"We have a man," said Black looking down on his carpet.
I grew suspicious. "Who?"
Counsellor Black paused a moment before answering. Then he uttered the ugly word: "Lousse."
"Do you happen to know," I asked him, "why I discharged Lousse?"
"And yet you want me to turn my business over to him?"
"We're not asking you to turn the business over to him. But to us. We want you to have confidence in us."
"I see," I said. By this time I realized that something really vicious was afoot. I decided to fight for time, myself. I turned to Black. "Let me think about it. I want to consult my attorney."
"I'm an attorney," said Councillor Black.
"Yes, but not my attorney. You understand that I'm entitled to an attorney who will consider my interests in this matter?"
"Yes. But why can't you trust me?"
"I only want to take the ordinary precaution of having someone representing my interests, Mr. Black. Here is the name and telephone number of my attorney. Please call him Monday morning. Whatever he is willing to arrange with you, will be alright with me."
Counsellor Black pretended to see my side of it. We shook hands and I left his office. I had no sooner reached the street than I realized that I was being followed. I stopped; a young man came up to me and asked me whether I was Samuel Roth. I replied in the affirmative and he served me with the receivership papers, returnable the following Wednesday morning. The whole thing had been arranged so as to make it possible for me to be served that afternoon.
* * * * * * * * * *
It was now almost six o'clock. Lower Broadway, together with the rest of the world, was darkening before my eyes. Across the street was a United Cigars store. I went towards it to communicate with my attorney. It was too late to get him at his office, so I telephoned his home. A maid answered that Mr. Lavine had left with his wife the day before for Washington, D. C., and would not be back till Tuesday morning.
I thought that it might be too late to get together a reply if I waited till Tuesday, and remembered Mr. Hyman Burtel. I knew that Mr. Burtel, who had been for thirty days a magistrate under Tammany Hall, would want a big fee, for I had retained him once before. But since I had only recently helped Mr. Burtel earn a five hundred dollar fee from another publisher, I thought that he might consider my impaired finances and help me in this matter.
I called Mr. Burtel and he consented to see me at his home in Essex House the next morning, Sunday. I introduced the matter by telling him that it was a matter of life and death for me to win this action, and I wanted him to undertake it only in that spirit. He studied the papers for about fifteen minutes, then threw them on the table. If what I told him was true, he said, it would be a simple matter for me to resist this move. He would take the case, but I must give him a retainer of five hundred dollars. "Cash," he added. "I wouldn't take a case like this from anyone else for less than a thousand dollars."
The only concession I could get from him was time till Tuesday afternoon to have the full amount in his office.
The following day I paid Mr. Burtel half of his retainer. The day after that we learned about the sale of all my assets. Mr. Burtel immediately prepared motion papers returnable in Municipal Court the following Monday, asking why this sale should not be set aside as fraudulent, and why the "purchaser" of the property of William Faro, Inc. should not be restrained from disposing of it.
The presiding magistrate, a negro, granted the second motion, but wanted time to consider the first. Naturally the "purchaser" of my property was represented by Counsellor Black. After the memorable court meeting between Mr. Burtel and Mr. Black in court that morning it became practically impossible for me to see Mr. Burtel again.
In spite of the fact that copies of the court-order forbidding any disposition of the property were served (at my suggestion, not Mr. Burtel's) on Parrach, Lousse, Ratte and all other parties concerned, I was approached by booksellers all over town who told me that my property was being sold on all sides.
It was now in order to bring Parrach, Lousse and Ratte into court for contempt for disobeying a court order. I also urged upon Mr. Burtel's office that proceedings should be taken against Lousse for violating the criminal statute forbidding an employee from using, as Lousse did, information obtained while in the hire of an employer.
But, as I have already mentioned, I could not get to see Mr. Burtel who behaved as though, as far as he was concerned, the matter was closed. Mr. Gottlieb, a clerk in the office, who received me for Mr. Burtel, told me that it was inadvisable to take any such action at the time. When the proper time came they would let me know.
At my instance, all of my creditors (whom Counsellor Black had pretended to represent) got up a petition to be presented before Judge Valente when the motion for receivership came up. This petition asked that I be permitted to continue running the business of William Faro, Inc. and was granted. The request for a receivership was denied.
The negro magistrate was daily putting off the decision on the question of the validity of the "sale" of my property. One morning Mr. Gottlieb called me on the telephone. The magistrate, he informed he [sic], had finally decided to put the question up to a referee.
"Has a date been set?" I asked.
"No," was the reply. "When a date is set we'll let you know."
One of my creditors was, in the meantime, persuaded by his attorney that at the rate I was managing things, Black and his crowd would have sold out all of the assets of the corporation before I could get to them, and advised bankruptcy as the safest means of rescuing what was left of the property of William Faro, Inc. At the request of this creditor and two others, the Federal Court appointed the Irving Trust Company as the receiver, and the latter designated Mr. George Mintzer as its acting attorney.
I turned over all of the papers in the case to the attorney for the Irving Trust Company, trustee. Office of Mr. George Mintzer. After several days, he informed me that he saw no grounds on which to proceed against the people who had defrauded me because on the surface everything seemed legal. To dig into the matter meant an investigation and an expenditure of moneys which were not in the estate.
"But you don't need an investigation," I cried. "They have been selling my property all the time in violation of a court order."
He promised to look into this immediately.
Several days later this attorney recalled me. The books were being sold, he informed me, but it was perfectly legal. The motion as to the validity of the sale had come up before a referee in the Court of the State of New York, and it had been decided against me by default. Neither Mr. Burtel nor anyone representing his office had appeared before the referee to argue the motion when it was called.
(30) I have in my possession a copy of this alleged "confession." It is 187 pages of pompous bluster in which I could not find that as much as a single fact in The Strange Career is controverted or even called into serious question. That would explain the reason why, for all the noise they made about procuring it from Hamill, Mr. Hoover's friends have never dared to publish it. During the trial of the ex-policeman's suit against William Faro, Inc., a futile attempt was made to make America conscious of the existence of this "confession." Mr. Hamill was placed on the witness stand by the little Jew-attorney who, for reasons best known to himself, had manoeuvered the all-too-willing Hamill into that curious 187 page tract. He began asking him a series, of questions whose answers were meant to make exciting reading for Mr. Hoover's friends. But Hamill had a stroke either of conscience or perverseness, for he refused to make the scheduled answers, and the press went home without a story. All but the good old New York Times which prints only "news fit to print." This great newspaper had Hamill answering the questions as he was supposed to, and certainly not as, he actually did. To one who was actually at the trial and saw what happened, the full column which The New York Times devoted to it the following morning, read like a fine work of the imagination. Evidently those week-ends in which Mr. Hoover entertained Mr. Ochs at the White House were not for nothing. Why should gentiles fear the Jewish power of the press when the latter can be procured so easily?
(31) The next time you read about a particularly bloody pogrom and pause to wonder how Christians, dedicated to a religion of mercy, can exercise so muck brutality against the Jews, remember that the Jew wheedles all the mercy out of his neighbors in the ordinary course of business. He lies and cheats until he is caught. When caught, instead of accepting punishment, he moans and tears his hair, invokes the sores of ancestors in their graves and living relations at the point of death in hospitals, until the wronged gentile, nauseated, lets him go. Then, thumbing his nose at the gentile behind his back, the Jew goes about his business the same way, lying and cheating now doubly to make up for lost time. A pogrom is usually the climax of years of such relentless goading. Do you wonder that when the final reckoning comes the gentile is absolutely merciless?