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The Santa Claus Man: an Excerpt and Book Tour Stop

Read an Excerpt from The Santa Claus Man by Alex Palmer, a book tour stop
The Santa Claus Man - an excerpt
Today I'm thrilled to bring you an excerpt from the book, The Santa Claus Man by Alex Palmer as part of a tlc Book Tour. I haven't read this yet, but it's been added to my reading list since I love the sound of the teaser. Read it for yourself, then scroll down to read the excerpt (featuring a little of the Christmas classic, plum pudding). Plus, if you order a copy of the book, the author will send you a free signed bookplate (more info on that at the bottom of this post).

teaser (via the tlc book tours site): Miracle on 34th Street meets The Wolf of Wall Street in this true crime adventure, set in New York City in the Roaring Twenties.

Before the charismatic John Duval Gluck, Jr. came along, letters from New York City children to Santa Claus were destroyed, unopened, by the U.S. Post Office Department. Gluck saw an opportunity and created the Santa Claus Association. The effort delighted the public, and for 15 years money and gifts flowed to the only group authorized to answer Santa’s mail. Gluck became a Jazz Age celebrity, rubbing shoulders with the era’s movie stars and politicians, and even planned to erect a vast Santa Claus monument in the center of Manhattan — until Gotham’s crusading charity commissioner discovered some dark secrets in Santa’s workshop.

The rise and fall of the Santa Claus Association is a caper both heartwarming and hardboiled, involving stolen art, phony Boy Scouts, a kidnapping, pursuit by the FBI, a Coney Island bullfight, and above all, the thrills and dangers of a wild imagination. It’s also the larger story of how Christmas became the extravagant holiday we celebrate today, from Santa’s early beginnings in New York to the country’s first citywide tree lighting to Macy’s first grand holiday parade. The Santa Claus Man is a holiday tale with a dark underbelly, and an essential read for lovers of Christmas stories, true crime, and New York City history.

Other holiday highlights found in The Santa Clause Man:
       -The secret history of Santa letters, including a trove of original Santa letters and previously unpublished correspondences between the post office and charity groups arguing whether Santa’s mail should be answered.

       -The surprising origins of Christmas as we celebrate it today. From “Twas the Night Before Christmas” to the image of Santa Claus popularized by Coca-Cola, this book outlines how modern Christmas came to be, and includes a standalone timeline of holiday milestones.

       -The rise of modern-day charity—and charity fraud. Unchecked giving exploded after the First World War and this book follows this growth, as well as some of the most egregious exploiters of the country’s goodwill (including the Santa Claus Man himself), and how they were finally exposed.

       -Dozens of original vintage holiday photos, including a sculpture of Santa Claus made of 5,000 pulped letters to Santa, and a detailed sketch of a proposed Santa Claus Building, planned but never built in midtown Manhattan.

The Santa Claus Man: Excerpt #3
On the chilly morning of December 24, New York City postmaster Edward Morgan, the man whose permission launched the association in the first place, was busy as he always was this time of year. He worked at his desk in the General Post Office when a colleague alerted him that a visitor was here to see him. Waiting out on the vast front steps of the building, coat buttoned to the top and a fedora atop his head, was Gluck. He was joined by seventy-five of the association’s volunteers, themselves wrapped in their fine coats and hats.

     Morgan expected their visit. Gluck called the day before to ask if they could pick up the latest letters in person. At the head of the members, Gluck greeted Morgan and then asked Sarah Barry to explain the reason for their visit. With that, she unveiled the massive present they brought Morgan and his men: a twenty-five-pound plum pudding, a gift of gratitude for his continued support of the Santa Claus Association. Barry explained that the pudding had been made with a special English recipe, which had remained unchanged for six hundred years, from the country’s Pemberton Hall. Morgan was delighted and promised to share it with the whole department—he certainly could not eat it himself.

     As postmen dragged the ungainly gift inside, past the post office’s Corinthian columns, several other mailmen exited, carrying the latest batch of Santa letters, neatly stacked and bound into manageable piles. Gluck urged the group to arrange themselves in a semicircle with the post office’s grand pillars behind them. A photographer prepared to snap a few pictures. The Santa Claus Man handed a few stacks to Sarah Barry, Mrs. Dearborn Adams, and the other main volunteers, and then gave a few stacks to Symona Boniface, positioning her next to him at the head of the group and cocking his chin as the camera snapped.

     That afternoon, Gluck announced that the organization had broken a new record. Santa had touched the lives of sixteen thousand families, and fifty thousand children throughout New York City—almost three times the number received just two years before. Gluck filled an entire scrapbook with the press clippings from 1915 alone, covering every aspect of the group’s work and fund-raising from almost every area newspaper. But Gluck had one more announcement to make, one that would dwarf the twenty-five-pound pudding.

     As the group’s work wound down on Christmas Day and the piles of letters in the Woolworth office dwindled, suddenly the space began filling with reporters. Gluck stopped his volunteers and informed them he was going to make an announcement.

     “Three years ago, in the rear of Paul Henkel’s chop house, we started the Santa Claus movement,” Gluck began. “This is now the largest organization of its kind in the world and thousands upon thousands of families have come to realize the true Christmas spirit. We will never know the ultimate good we did, as hundreds of families in this and other cities were benefited by being placed in direct contact with people who could do for them throughout the year—the opportunity for which was first presented by the unique, effective, and economic system of the Santa Claus Association.” Then he dropped his big news: “The peculiar nature of our work calls for a building of our own.”

about the author: Alex Palmer has written for Slate, Vulture, Smithsonian Magazine, New York Daily News and many other outlets. The author of previous nonfiction books Weird-o-Pedia and Literary Miscellany, he is also the great-grandnephew of John Duval Gluck, Jr. Connect with him via his website, facebook, or twitter.

Special blog tour Christmas gift: Get a free Santa bookplate signed by the author, plus two vintage Santa Claus Association holiday seals. Just email proof once you buy The Santa Claus Man (online receipt, photo of bookstore receipt, etc.) along with the mailing address where you'd like the gift sent to santaclausmanbook[at]gmail[dot]com. Email before 12/21 to guarantee delivery by Christmas.
Buy a copy of The Santa Claus Man by Alex Palmer and get a free signed bookplate!
Want to read more? Drop by the tlc Book Tours page for a schedule of this tour, where you'll find links to more blogs hosting excerpts, author guest posts, spotlights, and reviews!