October 30, 1929. A brisk autumn’s day in Manhattan. The Savoy-Plaza Hotel’s thirty-three stories cast a long shadow over Central Park. At the base of the hotel a financier lies freshly fallen, motionless, while his last breath, wrenched from the lungs by force of impact, is now a red mist of gore in the air.
Sirens and uniforms. The suicide spot quickly becomes crowded by spectators, who form a vision-impairing ring-fence of backs, much to the annoyance of elbow-throwers at the periphery. Winston Churchill stands at his hotel window looking down on the mess. To nobody’s surprise, the police will find an empty wallet and five margin calls in the dead man’s pockets.1
Churchill’s curtains flutter shut, and we are left to wonder whether anyone — Churchill included — can yet see his clumsy, cigar-wielding hand in it all; whether anyone realizes that, had Churchill as Chancellor of the Exchequer only restored the gold standard at a lower exchange rate, as Keynes had recommended, the Wall Street Crash of 1929 could have been averted (or at least ameliorated).