In these uncertain economic times, Jimmy Stewart's even voice is sounding in my head. As I watched the stock martket careen downward yesterday, the scene from IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE where George Bailey single-handedly stops a panic at the Bailey Building and Loan scrolled through my head. George told the folk who were clamoring for their money that Mr. Potter (the richest man in town) was picking up some bargains in the stock market crash because he wasn't panicky. I practiced not panicking. It helped stop the image of our 401K circling the toilet.
Then I remembered that even the 1929 plunge wasn't the first time the markets took a crippling tumble. I used just such a financial debacle for the backstory premise of VEXING THE VISCOUNT (coming March 2009). It was known as "The South Sea Bubble." In my story, the disastrous South Sea Bubble devastated my hero’s father when he lost his entire fortune. Lucian's goal is to win it all back by finding a lost Roman treasure.
I studied this historic stock swindle as part of my research for VEXING THE VISCOUNT. The scandal has been dubbed the ‘Enron of England.’ It all began with the Crown granting the South Sea Company exclusive rights to trade with South America. Shares in the South Sea Company soared to such ridiculous heights in the summer of 1720, it inspired shysters everywhere to urge investment in their schemes. One newly-formed enterprise advertised itself as "a company for carrying out an undertaking of great advantage, but nobody to know what it is." The market surged with the rising tide of unfounded speculation.
When the South Sea Company floundered, the government restructured its debt and the house of cards continued to grow, even though not a single ship ever set sail toward the burgeoning South American market. When the company finally collapsed and defaulted, the entire market crashed with it. However, since the principle cargo the Company intended to market to the New World was slaves from Africa, I can’t help but feel the cosmic justice of total financial ruin was fitting.
I guess what I'm trying to say is--try not to worry. Things have a way of finding the center. Financial empires have risen and fallen before. The British economy survived the South Sea Bubble. We survived the Crash of '29. We will survive this.
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