“All Alone” in RELOADED

Reloaded: Front CoverThe new Shotgun Honey anthology (RELOADED: Both Barrels Vol. 2) is now available, and I can’t wait to start digging into it. I’m especially looking forward to the contributions by Patti Abbott, Eric Beetner, Joe Clifford… I could list everyone in the book, but it’s easier (and true) to say I’m looking forward to all of them.

And I’m extremely pleased that my story “All Alone” is part of RELOADED, which is available for the Kindle and in paperback. Thanks to editors Ron Earl Phillips, Jen Conley and Chris Irvin for including me, and for all the work they put into this collection.

“All Alone” takes place in Philadelphia on a single day: October 29, 1951. The city was at the center of scandal after scandal. Things were so bad that on that date, just days before the election to choose a new mayor, the Philadelphia Inquirer ran an editorial — on the front page — with this headline:

Ward Boss Rule A Blight on City:
Vote to Smash It!

inquirer_editorialRepublicans had run Philadelphia for many decades, and the Inquirer theorized that, “Any political party that has possessed a monopoly of governmental control for more than 60 years is bound to be burdened with such an accumulation of abuses that the average voter might well question the wisdom of granting it further lease of power.”

The editorial then describes the “scandalous abuses in the city administration, waste of public funds and widespread graft and corruption” plaguing the city, including:

  • “embezzlement in the tax office”;
  • “extortion and bribery in the Fire Marshal’s office”;
  • “the theft of water with the connivance of Water Bureau employees”;
  • “extortion … by employees of the plumbing division”; and
  • “a sinister alliance … between ward politicians, members of the police force and racketeers to promote illegal gambling and to give gamblers protection from raids and immunity to prosecution.”
  • Inquirer Page 3Other than that, presumably, the city was in tip-top shape…

    The editorial urged voters to “oust the drones, the incompetents and the grafters.”

    Which is exactly what the voters did. In November 1951, Philadelphians elected Democrat Joseph S. Clark, Jr., who had earned the reputation of being a reformer and had won election as city controller two years earlier. (The obituary printed by the Inquirer after he died in 1990 is worth a read.) It was an open election (incumbent Barney Samuel didn’t run for re-election), and Clark defeated Republican Daniel A. Poling by nearly 125,000 votes.

    “All Alone” references the fact that the October 29 Inquirer also featured a two-page spread, on pages 2 and 3, recapping all of the recent scandals in detail. The headline on page 2 was:

    Thefts, Extortion, Bribery and Waste Erupt From City Hall

    And the headline on page 3 was:

    Scandals Keep Grand Juries Busy After 3½ Years of Sordid Disclosures

    Inquirer Suicide NoteThe newspaper even printed a photograph of the suicide note left by Police Inspector Craig Ellis, head of the city’s Vice Squad. Ellis’s suicide was one of six committed by city workers during a three-year period in the late 1940s and early 1950s, a tragedy summarized in this recent piece.

    Having said all that, “All Alone” doesn’t deal much with politics per se — it focuses on Oscar Cain, an entirely fictitious character who does some behind-the-scenes work for the mayor. Cain is the mayor’s bagman, which Merriam-Webster defines quite nicely as “a person who on behalf of another collects or distributes illicitly gained money.”

    Here’s more from the Inquirer in October 1951. Click on any of the photos on this page to enlarge them.

    Inquirer Page 3

    Inquirer Page 3 Zoom 2

    Inquirer Op-Ed

    More from the Inquirer

    I hope you enjoy the story!

    Like many of my previous stories, “All Alone” shares its title with a song by The Throes. In fact, “All Alone” is a personal favorite. (Don’t be fooled by the YouTube label on the video below. This really is “All Alone,” I promise.)

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