Tuesday 24 August 2021

In Search of the Blue Duck by James Bloom BLOG TOUR #InSearchOfTheBlueDuck #JamesBloom @DogberryLtd @RandomTTours #BookExtract


In the summer of 1985, fresh out of an elite American college, a young man is handed a job as a suit on Wall Street to which he is totally unsuited. As soon as he has his second paycheck, he buys a round the world air ticket and walks away from the life he has been brought up to lead.

His first stop is the Fiji islands where he attempts to emulate the other backpackers and live life in the moment, but ignorant of how to go about this, he heads to New Zealand and becomes a beekeeper's apprentice. Here he takes up with a British girl from a background as limited in its way as his own who sets out to teach him the art of rough and ready travel.

There follows an intimate chronicle of the next thirteen months as the pair hike and hitch through some of the most remote areas of New Zealand and Australia, coming to know each other better than they have anyone else in their brief lives. As they wind their way through the Indonesian archipelago, however, it becomes clear that their idyll cannot last.

Alternating between narrative sections describing the couple's exotic experiences along their way and excurses into topics ranging from the origins of the cardboard box to the allure of Indonesian shadow theater, this unusual book is at once a memoir of youthful love and a chronicle of travel on the edge in the era before the internet.

In Search of the Blue Duck by James Bloom was published on 30 June 2021 by Dogberry Books. 

As part of this #RandomThingsTours blog tour, I am delighted to share an extract from the book with you today. 

Extract from In Search of the Blue Duck


These events occurred more than a third of a century ago, a minimum of a dozen more years than he was old at that time. Given that the cells of a human body are all replaced every seven to ten years, depending upon which sources you consult, he has been a different person three to five times over since then, so whether he may any longer say that these things truly happened to him then, rather than merely occurring to me now, can and should be called into question.

The story begins ordinarily enough in midsummer in the mid­ eighties, with an image of him in the khaki worsted suit he still puts on once a year for a school graduation or a summer wedding, only with the waist let out an inch for each of the cellular iterations heretofore mentioned. He is lunching alone, seated on the wall of a fountain in the white travertine plaza of a famous Lower Manhattan office building, eating first rate falafel from a stand run by a genial Palestinian, who occasionally tells him disturbing stories which confirm his suspicion that he was lied to at Hebrew school about the admirable origins of the Jewish Homeland. He feels elated, not only because the day is fine and he is twenty­ two years old, but also because he has in the inside pocket of his jacket what he thinks of as his ‘Get out of Jail Free’ card. This is peculiar in that the jail is an invest­ment bank where he works as a trainee bond analyst, a job for which someone like him would never be given the briefest consideration today. The card is a round the­ world air ticket that cost him two weeks’ salary, which though modest by current standards in that egregious economic sector, is more than he will earn again until the next and present century.

The trainees in the bond division who are seen as being ‘hungry’, which translates to worthy of being there, are in the much larger corporate program. He has been assigned to the municipal or ‘muni’ department because he is viewed as being where he is thanks solely to nepotism. This is entirely correct since it was his mother who got him the job through the husband of one of her close friends, a person in front of whose name he was expected to place the word 'Uncle' when he was growing up, even though he hardly knew the man, who appeared to cringe at the spurious usage himself. His mother has a tendency to remind him of the enormous favor she has done him in securing this sinecure for him. Every time she does so, he is sorely tempted to tell her that she did it so that she could boast disingenuously to acquaintances about the promising job he landed straight out of college. Of course, she also did it in the hope that he might go on to get rich enough that she could continue to enjoy the satisfaction of being able to brag thus for the rest of her life, or his, whichever ends first. In order to lessen her embarrassment and disappointment, when her grand plan falls through, he has booked his departure for a couple of days after the surprise fiftieth birthday party his stepfather is planning for her at a fancy restaurant in Midtown.

Although he has been in ‘the program’ for only two months, he has already acquired a nickname by which he is known to all the other young male employees in bond analytics— Zero. Trainees are given topics to research and present and his was ‘Price Volatility of Long Term Zeros’. Zeros are bonds which do not carry the usual coupons that provide the buyer with semi­annual interest payments. Instead, all the interest is received at the end of the bond’s term, in return for which it is sold at a price heavily discounted from its maturity value. That these bonds yield nothing until the end of their term leads their value to fluctuate more than coupon bearing bonds, an attribute which can be exploited to the benefit of some investors and hence to the detriment of others. In an effort to make his presentation more interesting, he has spent long hours in the

Mid­Manhattan Library finding and printing off microfilm and fiche images of various public works projects for which zero type muni­bonds had been issued from the New Deal through the 1970s. Black and white pictures of huge concrete dams and vast suspension bridges in far flung states, both completed and under construction, and of the workers who built them, riveting and welding, wielding pickaxes and shovels, operating giraffe­ like cranes and hippopotamus­ like steamrollers. These efforts signally fail to impress the head of his department who repeatedly holds his forehead in despair at this irrelevant idiocy, while our Zero­hero, displays the lengthy sequence of seventeen by twenty ­two inch cards to which he has affixed his historic images, along with charts and graphs of illustrative bond price fluctuations during the mid­20th century, all painstakingly created by hand with steel rulers, plastic french curves and marker pens in that graphically primitive era.

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