Your girlfriend is late, as always.

There’s a newspaper on the hall table and you look at the headline:


Anastasia, flappers, Roaring TwentiesWhat is this? The Evening Graphic. Of course.

You reach for the New York Times instead.

The poor are starving in Russia; that’s what Josef Stalin’s New Economic Policy has done for them. You give communism another five years at the most.

America, Britain and France have ratified the Young Plan, giving the Germans sixty years to pay off their war reparations. In Berlin people are freezing to death in the parks and drinking coffee made from turnips. They say that by 1988 they’ll be out of hock. You hope things improve for them before then.

Where is she?

You skim the letters to the editor. A woman is complaining that her cook has resigned because she couldn’t have her own personal ticker in the kitchen; another says her chauffeur won’t report for work until after the market has closed. Movie houses and theaters want to place tickers in the foyer for their customers.

You feel a sense of comfort; America is showing the rest of the world the way.

Best place to put your money these days is in AOT – Any Old Thing.

Anastasia, flapper, Roaring TwentiesDown on Wall Street today you saw a prophet, draped in the American flag, shouting that the end of the world was coming. Would be a shame for it to end now, with stocks going through the roof.

Look at this: you can buy clocks in Bloomingdale’s with a luminous dial so you can tell the time in the middle of the night. There’s gramophone players that can play twelve records at once, and Frigidaire machines that do away with the need for an icebox.

The world is changing so fast, it’s hard to keep up with it all.

Still, they can’t keep coming up with new things forever.

Florence appears. She is wearing a pencil thin dress and a helmet-like cloche hat; boyish and brassy, she looks just like that It Girl, Clara Bow. She’s plucked her eyebrows and lined her eyes with kohl. You smile. You don’t care how long she takes to get ready if she comes out looking like this.

You catch a taxi downtown.

Your driver has to slow down for a hansom cab on Union Square. Damned horses. You’ll be glad when they’ve all gone. There are still tattered picket signs, in Yiddish and Russian, lying around the square from the protest march earlier in the day.

Damned communists. The police had to charge at them with horses, took a few of them away in paddy wagons.

If they didn’t like being poor they should get into the market like everyone else. 

You end up at a speakeasy on the Lower East Side.

Anastasia, speakeasy, Roaring TwentiesYou go down some steps to a dark doorway, press a button, a little window in the door opens. You say: ‘Buzz.’ You squeeze in and flip out your wallet, show him your membership card.

You have hundreds of them at home. A guy has to stay connected these days.

You hand over seventy bucks for the cover charge.*

Louis Armstrong, roaring twenties, AnastasiaThe place is packed and the smoke is like a fog. Laughing girls in skimpy, fringed dresses are crammed in shoulder to shoulder, jerking bare arms and legs and doing the Black Bottom. Your girlfriend joins them, jiggling and shaking; you take out your Lucky Strike from a silver cigarette case and watch.

There’s a Negro jazz band playing frenetically on a narrow stage.

Anastasia, roaring twenties, speakeasiesYou saw Louis Armstrong play here once, running around the stage punching the air, the crowd went crazy.

Your father said he was disgusting and that made you love him more.

Two hundred and fifty bucks for this water-down cider they pretend is champagne. Still, you can’t take it with you, as they say.

Besides, you’re making big money on the stock market now, at least the liquor in here isn’t moonshine and you won’t wake up in the morning in the hospital.

There’s a shout from the door: a police raid.

You are all hustled out of the back door into an alley. You’ve lost your girl but there’s another bright young thing hanging on to your arm. You’re young and it’s 1929 and you’re on Wall Street.

Life is good. What could possibly go wrong?

 * today’s equivalent



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About colinfalconer

author of bestselling historical novels like Anastasia, When We Were Gods, Aztec and Harem. My books have been published in the UK, US and ANZ and translated into seventeen languages.
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4 Responses to IT’S 1929. LET’S GO CLUBBING

  1. susielindau says:

    Fantastic! I am reading Sutton by Moehringer about an old gangster released from prison. Love historical fiction and will check it out!

  2. Wow! What a cool trip back into yesteryear. How things have changed. Actually, here in NYC we still have speakeasies, but not as secret anymore..


    • I think we have more in Barcelona now, Phil! There’s a bar here you can only get to through a secret door in a dry cleaner’s and even then you have to know someone – they refused entry to Shakira!

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