Has anyone ever heard of the novel False Faces on Quality Street?
It's a silly but engaging account of the Kansas City underworld of the late 1910s, but all the Kansas City stuff is transparently disguised: The Quackenboss machine runs Larcen City, but it clashes with "fearless journalist" Col. Horace Rockwell. "By virtue of his virile journalism," we're told, "Larcen City is transformed … It now boasts a school system of the first rank. Its parks and boulevards are models for other cities. A half-score of railroads converge here, and dump into the laps of a prosperous people the surplus wealth of a surrounding territory flowing with milk and honey."
Some dude named David Milton Proctor wrote it, and it was published by KC's Brown Book Company in 1937.
Proctor imagines Quackenboss lording over his wards from the Puritan Inn and a hotel in the Mid-Continent Building.
The political stuff is great fun, but the true pleasure is in the metaphors, which make no sense. In the preface, Proctor writes: "I have attempted to place the heavy saddle of fact upon the prancing steed of fiction. As in viewing equestrian statues, each person must determine for himself where the saddle ends and the horseflesh begins."
Or, describing Quackenboss as he downs a whiskey: "No dinosaur ever gulped down a little pond more zestfully." (That last one's going to be on my muhfuckin' tombstone.)
All that is in the first 24 pages. God knows what awaits me.
Here’s a highlight I forgot to mention. Inside the front cover, an inscription reads: "Important. This book cost me $15 so please see that I get it back. -- Frank Mercer, 3/2/39." How the hell could a two year-old book have fetched $15 back in 1939?
Our initial curiosity led us to the Kansas City Public Library, which informs us that Proctor was a Missouri State Senator – but doesn’t tell us much else.
Can one of our smart readers please help? -- Alan Scherstuhl