We launched The Mark Steyn Club earlier this summer, and I'm immensely heartened by all those SteynOnline supporters across the globe - from Fargo to Fiji, Vancouver to Vanuatu, Surrey to the Solomon Islands - who've signed up to be a part of it. As I said at the time, membership isn't for everyone, but it is a way of ensuring that all our content remains available for everyone - all my columns, audio interviews, video content, all our movie features and songs of the week. None of it's going behind a paywall, because I want it out there in the world, being read and being heard and being viewed, and maybe changing an occasional mind somewhere along the way.
That said, we are presenting a few bonuses for our members - not locking up our regular content, which will always be free, but admitting members to a few experimental features, such as this series of monthly audio adventures. In Tales for Our Time I revisit some classic fiction I've mentioned in books and columns over the years - old stories that nevertheless speak to our own age. Our first serialization was The Tragedy of the Korosko by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; next came The Time Machine by H G Wells; then The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad and The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope - plus a Rudyard Kipling bonus, The Cat That Walked By Himself.
They've proved so popular that we're back with a sixth tale - The Diamond as Big as the Ritz, a fantastical novella published in 1922. It's the first of a Scott Fitzgerald double-bill, and we've paired it with a yarn that is its very opposite in its catastrophic ordinariness. This first story, however, reaches for the skies:
'I was reading in the World Almanac,' began John, 'that there was one man in America with an income of over five million a years and four men with incomes of over three million a year, and—'
'Oh, they're nothing.' Percy's mouth was a half-moon of scorn. 'Catch-penny capitalists, financial small-fry, petty merchants and money-lenders. My father could buy them out and not know he'd done it.'
'But how does he—'
'Why haven't they put down his income-tax? Because he doesn't pay any. At least he pays a little one—but he doesn't pay any on his real income.'
'He must be very rich,' said John simply, 'I'm glad. I like very rich people. The richer a fella is, the better I like him.' There was a look of passionate frankness upon his dark face. 'I visited the Schnlitzer-Murphys last Easter. Vivian Schnlitzer-Murphy had rubies as big as hen's eggs, and sapphires that were like globes with lights inside them—'
'I love jewels,' agreed Percy enthusiastically. 'Of course I wouldn't want any one at school to know about it, but I've got quite a collection myself. I used to collect them instead of stamps.'
'And diamonds,' continued John eagerly. 'The Schnlitzer-Murphys had diamonds as big as walnuts—'
'That's nothing.' Percy had leaned forward and dropped his voice to a low whisper. 'That's nothing at all. My father has a diamond bigger than the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.'
Which scale of wealth has great consequences.
As before, we'll post an episode a day, and you can either enjoy it as a book at bedtime half-an-hour before you lower your lamp - or pile up the chapters and listen to the whole thing on a long car journey. I always like reading stories, and I did do a little of it professionally a zillion years ago. So, if it works, we may release it as an audio book on CD or Audible a ways down the road. But for the moment it's an exclusive bonus for Mark Steyn Club members. To hear Part One of The Diamond as Big as the Ritz, prefaced by my own aforementioned intro, please click here and log-in.
If you've enjoyed our monthly Steyn Club radio serials and you're looking for a Yuletide present for someone special, I hope you'll consider our limited-time-only Christmas gift membership, which includes your choice of a personally autographed book or CD from yours truly. And, aside from Tales for Our Time, The Mark Steyn Club does come with other benefits:
~Exclusive Steyn Store member pricing on over 40 books, mugs, T-shirts, and other products - plus this year's Santa Steyn Christmas specials;
~The opportunity to engage in live Clubland Q&A sessions with yours truly;
~Transcript and audio versions of The Mark Steyn Show, SteynPosts, and our other video content;
~My new quarterly newsletter The Clubbable Steyn;
~Our new video series of classic poetry;
~Advance booking for my live appearances around the world;
~Customized email alerts for new content in your areas of interest;
~and the chance to support our print, audio and video ventures as they wing their way around the planet.
One other benefit to membership is our Comment Club privileges. So, if you like or dislike this sixth Tale for Our Time, or consider my reading of it pure rhinestone, then feel free to comment away below. I weigh in on the comment threads myself from time to time, but I regard it as principally your turf, to have at it as you so desire. And do join us tomorrow for Part Two of The Diamond as Big as the Ritz.