If you wonder how Bernie Madoff and the guys at AIG could have such a cavalier attitude toward other people’s money, Robert Ruark’s 1959 novel Poor No More might supply some answers.
Craig Price grows up in the South in rural, depression-era poverty. He’s a loner living in a fantasy world in which he is “Captain-Admiral of the Ocean Sea.”
Craig’s dying grandfather makes him promise to fight to make something of himself.
Craig marries a mill-owner’s daughter, using her fortune to as the foundation of a financial empire. With bluff, guts, charm and other peoples’ money, he works his way to the ranks of multi-millionaires. He does every nasty thing you’ve read about Wall Street doing: short-selling, market manipulation, using unregulated financial instruments.
Craig’s emotional neediness draws women; his narcicism tramples them.
He deceives everyone, including himself, and winds up as poor as he started, only this time he has money.
Ruark reveals Craig so well that readers fall for him the way his victims did, admiring his acumen, pitying his roots. In the end, even the readers see the man for the scumbag he is and blush to admit they ever found anything likable about the guy.Poor No More
Henry Holt, 1959
#10 on the 1959 bestseller list
My grade: A-