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The BookBrowse Review

Published September 20, 2017

ISSN: 1930-0018

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Book Jacket

Family Secrets, Financial Collapse, and a Hidden History of American Banking
by Alice Echols
3 Oct 2017
320 pages
Publisher: Atheneum Books
ISBN-13: 9781620973035
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This book tells the dramatic story of the rise and shocking fall of Walter Davis, who absconded with millions of dollars.

Shortfall opens with a surprise discovery in an attic - boxes filled with letters and documents hidden for more than seventy years - and launches into a fast-paced story that uncovers the dark secrets in Echols's family - an upside-down version of the building and loan story at the center of Frank Capra's 1946 movie, It's a Wonderful Life.

In a narrative filled with colorful characters and profound insights into the American past, Shortfall is also the essential backstory to more recent financial crises, from the savings and loan debacle of the 1980s and 1990s to the subprime collapse of 2008.

Shortfall chronicles the collapse of the building and loan industry during the Great Depression - a story told in microcosm through the firestorm that erupted in one hard-hit American city during the early 1930s. Over a six-month period in 1932, all four of the building and loan associations in Colorado Springs, Colorado, crashed in an awful domino-like fashion, leaving some of the town's citizens destitute. The largest of these associations was owned by author Alice Echols's grandfather, Walter Davis, who absconded with millions of dollars in a case that riveted the national media.

"Starred Review. Echols's absorbing portrait makes Main Street the rival of Wall Street for callous corruption." - Publishers Weekly

"A lively and informative treatment in which one man's rise and fall opens a window onto a long-overlooked historical landscape in all its finely drawn detail." - Kirkus

Alice Echols is Professor of History and the Barbra Streisand Chair of Contemporary Gender Studies at the University of Southern California. She has written four books that explore the culture and politics of the "long Sixties," including Scars of Sweet Paradise: The Life and Times of Janis Joplin and Hot Stuff: Disco and the Remaking of American Culture. Shortfall: Family Secrets, Financial Collapse, and a Hidden History of American Banking explores an earlier period of U.S. history, concerning a devastating Depression-era banking scandal and its connection to the cratering of the country's building and loan industry. At the center of her narrative is her maternal grandfather, an ambitious building and loan operator in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Shortfall chronicles the fall-out from the industry's failure, examines how its history came to be forgotten, and the consequences that followed from that cultural forgetting. It stands as a cautionary tale about the seductions and dangers of unfettered capitalism. She lives in Los Angeles.

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