“Advice To Gangsters” (E4)

  • Originally printed: Unknown (presumably the roaring twenties)
  • First reprinted in: Chips Off the Old Benchley
  • Original Byline: Unknown


A piece of unknown provenance selected by Gertrude Benchley for inclusion in the posthumously issued Chips Off the Old Benchley (1949). With apparently topical references to bootlegging and tommy guns, it must have been composed during Prohibition – but when? And for what brave periodical? If Gordon E. Ernst, Jr. doesn’t know, none of us dilettantes are likely to prise the secret from the arthritic jaws of lost time. Our author boldly enjoins the nation’s criminals to knock off knocking each other off and begin working together toward some worthwhile common goal – like improving the quality of liquor on offer. RB deplores the wasted materiel and man hours invested in all of these madcap massacres, when any illicit imbiber knows there is real work to be done on the production end of the business. Inspired no doubt by an abject cowardice RB is only too eager to own up to, the piece abandons its trenchant critique somewhere around page 3 in favour of a few homiletic lessons in limited boy gang warfare learned on the snowball strewn streets of turn-of-the-century Worcester, Mass.

Favourite moment:
“A man can’t buy a good glass of beer for his little boy today without having the fear that the child will be going around the house all the next day moaning and holding onto its head and snapping at its parents.”

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