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Book Note: Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Efficiency Expert

I read this book about 16-Jul-2011. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright 1921. This note was last modified Monday, 15-Aug-2011 19:20:16 PDT.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


Yes, the man who wrote the Martian and Tarzan books. No, this one is not fantasy of any sort; it's a contemporary (when written) story of an over-privileged college graduate who stumbles quite a bit and widens his experience before making good. Despite that basically sound structure, I must say there was more of a feel of his deserving to make good than I was really comfortable with.

I was never attracted to what I heard of the Martian books. The Tarzan books seemed a little better as described, but I don't recall reading any significant number (though I saw some movies). (I do remember that the label placards at the botanical garden in Entebbe were said to be all confused because they had been removed to make Tarzan movies there some time earlier (I was there in 1964).)

So, back to this book. We meet the protagonist winning a boxing match (at least his third sport), and almost flunking out of college. He manages to get one more chance (not merely his second, of course), and buckles down and works, and graduates. We learn that he's from a business-owning family in the Midwest.

When he graduates, he goes to Chicago to make his fortune. How hard can it be? He's convinced that he's superior, and he has after all a college degree. His first thought is to advertise his availability for high executive positions. Surprisingly, this does not work out. Over many weeks, he lowers his sites, and moves to cheaper and cheaper lodgings. And meets some of the underworld elements.

There's a girl, of good family, that he keeps running into. She starts to notice he exists.

He takes jobs; as a lingerie salesman, a waiter, as sparring partner for a boxer who is being set up for a gambling scam, for various things. Each job blows up fairly quickly, but he's not bad at any of them.

And in the end he's hired as an efficiency expert by a man who turns out to be the father of the girl he's been running into. He does well at that, too, and also uncovers embezzlement going on, and saves the factory. Well, actually, the father dies, but the daughter inherits, decides not to marry the many who was robbing them, and hires our hero to manage the plant.

The safe-cracker, prostitute, and some other bit players he meets on the way are nicely sketched characters.

As fiction there's not that much to this, and it doesn't really fit today's view of things. But as a historical piece it's rather interesting, and of course it's short.


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David Dyer-Bennet