Happy December to you. We launched The Mark Steyn Club this summer, and I'm very touched by all those SteynOnline supporters across the globe - from Fargo to Fiji, Vancouver to Vanuatu, Cook County to the Cook 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. So far we've presented radio serializations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H G Wells, Joseph Conrad, Anthony Hope and Rudyard Kipling. You can find them all here.
Currently we're in the middle of a Scott Fitzgerald double-bill. Our first tale was The Diamond as Big as the Ritz, a fantastical satire. This second yarn is the very opposite in its catastrophic ordinariness: The Rubber Check, first published in 1932. A young man, swimming a little out of his depth socially, finds himself presented with the bill at a swank Philadelphia restaurant:
The waiter laid a check at his elbow. Val started; he had had no intention of giving the party, but no one spoke up; the men at the table were as young as himself and as used to being paid for. He carried the check into his lap and looked at it. It was for eighty dollars, and he had nine dollars and sixty-five cents. Once more he glanced about the table - once more he saw Mercia Templeton's eyes fixed suspiciously upon him.
'Bring me a blank check,' he said.
Val Schuyler does not know it, but that is the moment when the entire course of his life changes.
We'll be running this short story in three parts over the weekend, and you can either enjoy it as a book at bedtime twenty minutes before you lower your lamp - or pile up the chapters and listen to the whole thing on a longish car journey come Monday. I always like reading stories, and I did do a little of it professionally a zillion years ago. So, if these fancies tickle you, we may release them as audio books 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 Rubber Check, prefaced by my own introduction to the story, 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 seventh Tale for Our Time, or consider my reading of it a check that no bank would honor, then feel free to comment away below. And do join us tomorrow for Part Two of The Rubber Check.