Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Money Changers (Published in 1975) by Arthur Hailey, focusing on the world of banks and money

Arthur Hailey was born in Lutton, Bedford-shire, England. He served in the Royal Air force as a pilot in World War II. He migrated to Canada and has written best sellers like Airport, Wheels and Hotel. He moved to the Bahamas with his writer wife Sheila. Arthur Hailey died on November, 2004 leaving a legacy of best sellers and over 170 million books in print.
Moneychangers is not only about money, it is about all the effects of money i.e. power, greed, affairs, isolation, loneliness etc. In Money Changers, Hailey tries to present the dynamics of banking. As usual a detailed prelude emerges about the principles of banking, the economics, ethics and above all the operations. He even makes the reader familiar with fake currencies, fraud credit cards and the risk of investment. Towards the end of the book he even explains about the advantages of investments in bullion.
The first Mercantile bank (FMA) is a family run bank and the current chairman Ben Roselli is fatally ill. He is grooming two vice-presidents of the company, Alex Vandervoot and Roscoe Hayward, as his successors. Alex Vandervoot is an honest, principled albeit easy-going person. But his banking fundamentals are strong and he feels that the future of banking lies in retail banking. He believes in giving back to the society and does not believe in risking the banks credibility to bring in the gains.

What is Hailey's book without a love and personal angle? Alex Vandervoot's personal life is in shambles. His once lovely wife is confined to a psychiatric facility and he himself fees very guilty about it. He chances upon Margot Bracken, a hard nosed activist lawyer who works for the underprivileged community. To compound matters, the First Mercantile American withdraws financial assistance from some of the projects of the community. Margot's spirited non-violent protest becomes a success, but Alex's detractors pin him down to the wall. They feel that Alex has been assisting Margot to pressurize the bank.
Roscoe Hayward, on the other hand, is a very religious, rigid person. He believes that the future profits of the bank lie with big business lending. He does not believe in charity and community projects. Roscoe teams up with a corrupt businessman and undertakes to lend big loans to him. In return for this, he strikes alliances with politicians and is treated to all the pleasure in the world.
But as the businessman defaults and flees the country, Roscoe is left with a huge crisis. This financial crisis threatens to engulf the whole system, setting up a panic reaction among the shareholders, stakeholders, employees and the stock market. Roscoe Hayward faced with criminal offenses commits suicide, paving the way for Alex Vandervoot to take over the ruined financial institution.
Money Changers is a book about the power struggle between two individuals, but Hailey's research gives the lowdown on the other operatives like mafia, currency rackets and fraudsters who at every stage try to undermine the system. Money Changers is a book for a banking student and a simple layman who does not understand numbers. It is an engrossing tale about the institution which determines the fate of millions in the world – the bank.

The Money changers (Published in 1975) by Arthur Hailey, focusing on the world of banks and money

Friday, May 28, 2010

Overload by Arthur Hailey (published in 1978), challenges of power generation, politics, and tradeoff between needs and environment

Arthur Hailey, a best selling author was born in Lutton, Bedfordshire, England. He emigrated to Canada after actively serving in the Royalk Airforce as a pilot in the World War II. He started his literary career with Flight Into Danger and later came up with amazing titles like Hotel, Wheels, Final Diagnosis tec. He moved to the Bahamas with his writer wife Sheila, and continued to churn out best sellers. He died in November, 2004.
Overload is about the dynamics of power generation. It tells the readers about the difficulty in serving a state like California and how a simple outage can cripple the lives and economy of a nation. Nimrod or Nim Goldman is the Vice President of Golden State Power and Light, who predicts that there is a great possibility a blackout in the future. He feels the need of developing 2 or 3 electricity generating units to combat the electric famine looming alarmingly near. His company has identified sites for developing two power projects and Nim is supporting it through various channels. But critics consider these as ravings of a power hungry, greedy capitalist. Green activists and NGS's are up in arms agtainst his company and accuse them of pillaging the environment and natural resources. Apart from this the upcoming power projects are opposed by rivals and regulatory bodies.

This book has great significance even today because the hunger for power has not diminished. With lot of other Asian countries developing at a faster rate the need for power has reached its pinnacle. Hailey also takes up the case of power theft by the people. In Overload there is a special drive by the company to catch the culprits which also involves detective agencies. Hailey also refers to the problems various life saving agencies like hospitals face when there is an outage because majority of their equipmentrs like ventilators, X rays etc rely on power. Handicapped people and small businesses thrive on power. These messages are totally put across to the reader along with enviromental concerns.
Ultimately a series of controlled explosions shuts the power and California is plunged into darkness. How the citizens and the company cope with the crisis forms the bulwark of the story. Nim Goldman's personal life is woven into the story and I feel is an unnecessary distraction. Nim, a modern Don Juan, beds many women or falls in and out of love. He even has an affair with a quadriplegic woman who is totally dependent on the electric power his company generates. His womanizing attitude continues throughout the book in spite of his wife being diagnosed with cancer.
But Hailey ultimately lifts this book with good research about electric theft, shortage, environmental concerns and the effects of a power outage. Even though it was written in the late 70's the technology and concerns sound even true to this day. Overload gives us a pointer to the future as we are completely dependent on electricity for our needs. Hailey is a visionary indeed !!!

Overload by Arthur Hailey (published in 1978), challenges of power generation, politics, and tradeoff between needs and environment

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Airport By Arthur Hailey (published in 1968) - the handling of an airport during an emergency

Arthur Hailey was born in Lutton, Bedford-shire, England and served in the royal air force during world war II. He emigrated to Canada and got his first break through as a writer through his book 'Flight to Danger'. After this he never looked back with his novels like Wheels, Airport, Hotel and Final Diagnosis becoming best sellers. He moved to the Bahamas to continue his writing career until his death on November, 2004.
Airport is one of the best selling novels of Arthur Hailey and has gone on to become a well known motion picture of the same name. It portrays the working of a fictional airport, Lincoln international in Chicago. The main protagonist include Mel Bakersfield who is the general manager of Lincoln International Airport who is working hard to keep the airport in working condition during the worst snow storms of the decade. The Chicago airport is blanketed with snow which had to be cleared at all times to keep air traffic under control. But things get worse with a plane careening of the adjacent runway and getting stuck on the crucial runway three zero. So the runway two five is used frequently and it troubles the Meneawood community which ultimately pickets the airport to stop the flights.

Meanwhile in the air the Golden Argosy, Trans America Flight two is piloted by Vernon Demerest who is the brother in law of Mel Bakersfield. Both have a very tenuous relationship and are at the throats of each other. D.O Guerrero, a bankrupt businessman boards the flight with a bomb to blow himself up to enable his wife to collect the insurance benefits. Vernon Demerest is having an affair with the in flight stewardess Gwen who is pregnant with his child, but does not yet know about it. Aboard this flight is Ada Quonset, a frequent stowaway who sneaks into the flight to visit her daughter in New York. Amidst all this action the drama unfolds with Vernon trying to take away the bomb from D.O Guerrero,who inadvertently detonates it blowing a big hole in the plane. Now Demerest has the unenviable task of landing the Golden Argosy in Lincoln international Airport with out any delay.
At the airport Mel Bakersfield need to get the stuck plane off the run way to clear the path for the Golden Argosy. Mel's wife Cindy is a social climber and socialite who is unhappy with her husband because he does not attend many functions in her social calender. She warns him of ending their marriage if he fails to attend this particular event tonight. Amidst all this chaos Mel also discovers the soft corner he has for Tonya Livingston, the passenger relations executive.
The other characters involve Keith Bakersfield who is in charge of the radar control who has his own demons to slay. He is tormented by a mid air collision and feels guilty for the fateful accident and is contemplating suicide. But this sudden turn of events brings everybody together to save the passengers trapped in the plane. In the end a high octane finish happens with Joe Patroni the chief mechanic managing to clear the runway to enable the smooth landing and Vernon Demerest and Harry, his copilot make the unthinkable happen.
If you want to have a high adrenaline rush in your veins you can pick up Arthur Hailey's Airport. It will sure liven up your mundane days and you will never look at the airplane surging up overhead without wondering at the men and women who make it all happen.

Airport By Arthur Hailey (published in 1977) - the handling of an airport during an emergency

Monday, May 24, 2010

Final diagnosis by Arthur Hailey (published in 1959), a book about medicine and the scene inside a hospital

Arthur Hailey was born in Lutton, Bedford-shire, England and served in the royal air force during world war II. He later emigrated to Canada and started his career as a writer. His extensive research on the subjects give his novels a very realistic sense and most of his books have gone on to become the best sellers of the day. He later set up home in the Bahamas, to avoid the extreme taxation in Canada. He died on November, 2004 living behind a legacy of amazing books and movies.
Final Diagnosis is one of Arthur Hailey's best sellers which depicts the workings of a large hospital . At the centre of the drama is Joe Pearson, an aging pathologist who has refused to accept his retirement. He had been once the whole and soul of the hospital with all the doctors accepting his expertise. But with advancing age he has lost his grip on his subject and this has made him impermeable to change. He refuses to keep himself up to date with the latest technological advances and refuses to let others to modernize the same. He has powerful friends in the medical board who patronize him, thus making change difficult.

The novel opens with Kent O' Donell the new medical director trying to make Pearson see that because of his tardiness the patients reports were getting delayed thus provoking lot of complains. He bulldozes his way, with the help of certain doctors to force Pearson to accept a second pathologist to help him. David Coleman, the young and highly qualified doctor who arrives to man the pathology department has to face the hostility of Pearson. The politics becomes so acute that Pearson refuses to accept a new technological advancement to test the RH factor called the Direct Coombs test resulting in the death of the new born baby of John Alexander. This proves to be his undoing and he himself is aghast at his behavior. Pearson at last realizes the gravity of his actions and offers to resign. He also persuades, Eustace Swayne, a long time friend and medical board member to continue funding the hospital. He also tries to make amends by asking Swayne to fund John Alexander's medical education.
As his last working days draw near Pearson works tirelessly to stem a typhoid outbreak and saves Three counties hospital from closure. He tells his successor David Coleman to find time for himself and his needs. As he leaves he says “Listen to an old man who’s been through it all, who made the mistake of falling behind. Don’t let it happen to you! Lock yourself in a closet if you have to! Get away from the phone and the files and paper, and read and learn and listen and keep up to date! Then they can never touch you, never say, ‘He’s finished, all washed up; he belongs to yesterday.’ Because you’ll know as much as they do—and more. Because you’ll have experience to go with it”.
Thats the echoing theme of Final Diagnosis, Man's failure to accept change and to keep abreast of it. Before the predicament of Joe Pearson all other characters pale in comparison and work towards to magnifying the folly of a man who refused to see the writing on the wall to look forward. Another gripping tale from Arthur Hailey who has wonderfully created the hospital atmosphere and the politics of health care.

Final diagnosis by Arthur Hailey (published in 1959), a book about medicine and the scene inside a hospital

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Hotel (published by 1965) - Written by Arthur Hailey, and a book about the struggle to save a hotel

Arthur Hailey is a British/ Canadian novelist who is said to have guaranteed his publishers a best seller. His novels were a product of considerable research and therefore very realistic and gripping. Critics say that his style was of a typical potboiler in which he took many different types of crisis and connected them to encompass all the characters.
Hotel is one of Arthur Hailey's most successful works and to research he had read over 20 books on the hotel industry to convey a realistic feeling for this gripping tale. When you check yourself into a hotel you hardly notice the effort that goes in to making your stay the most pleasant experience ever. The door keeper to the housekeeper and the innumerable invisible background staff work like the spokes in a wheel to keep the whole edifice of a hotel standing and profitable. Arthur Hailey brilliantly portrays the behind the scene actions and intrigues which goes into the working of this business. At the centre of this gripping tale is Peter McDermott, the efficient assistant general manager who has had a checkered past, striving to keep the hotel afloat. The Hotel “St Gregory's” has fallen on bad times and its aging proprietor Warren Trent has no means to keep it going. He has exhausted all avenues to get credit, and cannot keep the staff and corruption under check. Trying to stave off a take over bid from Charles O' Keete he resists the changes proposed by Peter McDermott. His old timers are either inefficient or amoral which is bringing the profits down.

So Peter McDermott has to valiantly fight racial segregation, a rape attempt, robbery and a hit and run case which threatens to be bad publicity in the press. Helping him are Christine Francis and a hand full of other staff who many times have their back to the wall. One can see the master stroke of Hailey when an insignificant character like the hotel incinerator operator Booker T, happens to unearth significant evidence to nail the obnoxious Duchess and Duke of Croydon. Booker T, rummages through the garbage and retrieves lost valuables of guests, cutlery and other items. Hailey also draws attention to the fact that such background characters are so significant to the hotel to make its operations profitable.
At the heart of the story is the love affair between the beautiful Christine Francis and Peter McDermott. Both of them have suffered losses and have unenviable pasts. But due to their indomitable spirit and kindness they change the destiny of the hotel. A chance kindness shown to a seemingly destitute Albert Wells who actually owns a gold mine, enables them to stave off the take over battle and preserve the grandeur of St Gregory's. Peter McDermott has ushered in the change with De-segregation and a freak elevator accident helps him to reconstitute the entire staff.
Hailey's attempt at humor with Keycase Milne and the playacting Marsha Preyscott also tugs our heart. Al-together “Hotel” is a gripping tale of love, human spirit and business battles.

Hotel (published by 1965) - Written by Arthur Hailey, and a book about the struggle to save a hotel

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Dumb Witness (1937) - featuring Hercule Poirot - written by Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie is most famous for the 2 detectives that she created, the egg shaped egoistical Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, and the elderly spinster Miss Marple, with Hercule Poirot being the more famous of the 2. One famous way of writing the books was with the constant companion of Poirot, Captain Hastings being the narrator. However, with the book 'Dumb Witness', this concept of Hastings being the narrator was coming to a close, with this being the second last book of Poirot with Hastings as the narrator (the last one being the 1975 book 'Curtain: Poirot's Last Case'. Like many of her other books, The Dumb Witness was also the name of the book release in Britain, with the US release having a different name 'Poirot Loses a Client'.
The Dumb Witness had a not so enthusiastic reception by critics when it was released, with many of the reviewers proclaiming the story as not having the complexity and twists, and not being gripping enough; however, the book did contain many of the usual plots that are present in books by Christie, with a rural setting, a small English village, an old lady, relatives who have a motive for the murder, follow on deaths, use of poison, and also some elements of the occult.

The novel centers around the character of an old wealthy lady, Emily Arundell, who lives in an old English village, and who has written to Poirot for investigation of a suspected murder attempt on her. However, by the time Poirot receives this letter, it is too late. Emily dies, with her doctor declaring that she died of a long standing liver problem that she was suffering from (the doctor was also old, and had a problem that he had mostly lost his sense of smell, something that is very relevant for the story).
Poirot gets involved with the story, since he considers the dead lady still his client, and pretends to be interested in the property to investigate the death in more detail. Like many other stories, there is money, motive; and there is some amount of the occult, a small cute dog, a brooch, and many other points that make this an interesting story.

Dumb Witness (1937) - featuring Hercule Poirot - written by Agatha Christie