The Plan by Michael Bockman

I loved reading THE PLAN. The story, the writing, the characters engaged me from start to finish. And a good-sized book it is, over 8100 locations, about 126,000 words, a respectably-sized historical novel.

With his rich imagination, Bockman fills in the holes left by history, giving his readers plenty of intrigue, gritty action, surprises, loss, love, and mystery. Bockman’s words flow, his sense of story, unflagging (I’m looking for a better word here).

The theme of the book is social upheaval, the attempt by powerful financiers at the turn of the twentieth century to manipulate and control commerce in America, contrasted with the gathering storm of the labor movement.

Take the opening scene. It contains the seeds of the whole novel. Picture it, the fall of 1907. J.P. Morgan, in morning suit, bulbous-nosed and full-throated, is singing his favorite hymn. He’s really into it, along with three thousand others, when a messenger hands him a telegram. The news, for anyone else, would be a life changer—the suicide of Morgan’s friend and former head of the Knickerbocker Trust, the institution whose insolvency touched off the Wall Street Panic of 1907. But Morgan continues singing. Punctuating the narration are lines taken from “Rock of Ages.” It is a human portrait of this sharp-eyed financier, a major player in THE PLAN.

And the rest of the novel is as absorbing and full of life as the opening scene.

There are two story lines occurring throughout, held together by the main character, Captain, later, Major Archibald Butt who functions as the plot’s linchpin. In real life he was the military aide to Roosevelt and Taft.

One story deals with Archie’s attempt to find the killer of his friend and fellow soldier in the Civil War, Mick Shaughnessy. It takes him to Greenwich Village, to Washington, to Rome, and traveling back to New York on the Titanic. This story functions separately but is connected through Archie to the second, the attempt by Astor, Vanderbilt, Morgan, and others to control commerce.

THE PLAN pits the worker’s movement against Wall Street barons and has a wealth of characters, presidents and anarchists, painted larger than life. Meet J.P. Morgan, his librarian, Bella da Costa Greene, Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Major Archie Butt, John Jacob Astor IV, George Vanderbilt, Emma Goldman, Clara Lemlich, Big Bill Haywood.

Scenes take place on sea and land—in the White House, in a smoky back room of the Brevoort, in the slums of Five Points and The Bend, in McSorley’s Pub in the East Village, and Rome. Major events of the age, like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and the sinking of the Titanic, are woven into the story’s fabric in a way that made this reader feel like she was there.

Needless to say it, but I will, anyway: I recommend THE PLAN to anyone who likes to be immersed in a cinematic sweep of another time, to the reader who, aware of the history of American financial and social movements, believes that the past is prelude.

My Rating: 5 Stars

About the Author. Writer and filmmaker Michael Bockman has four produced screenplays to his credits. His feature screenplay about the Beat Generation, Starving Hysterical Naked, is the basis for the short film he directed, available for viewing on YouTube.

Between screenwriting assignments he has written numerous articles that have been published in newspapers and magazines. He has collaborated on three best-selling self-help books with English author Lynne Franks—Grow (Hay House), Bloom (Chronicle Books) and The Seed Manifesto (Thorsons). THE PLAN is his first novel.

THE PLAN by Michael Bockman, Story by Ron Freeman
Copyright © Michael Bockman 2011

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