Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Icelandic bank problems prefigured

I remember the fantastic John Glashan illustrating a book about con artists, published in the 1960s. I believe it was this one, "Refer to Drawer" by Nicholas Luard & Dominic Elwes.

To be honest, it rather stretched its material. However, one or two jokes stick in the memory. One was of a trick used by one of the characters when asked his name by a mark. Scottish surnames tend to give the impression of solidity and reliablity. If you are in a pub and stuck for inspiration, you can run your eye over the labels of the scotch whisky bottles. He came unstuck once when, rather drunk, he could see only one Scotch bottle and announced himself as "John Haig and Haig".

Another concerned the production of authentic-looking bank documentation. As I recall, fictitious banks had to be based abroad (to make it difficult to be checked up on) and incorporate the name of a widely-used basic commodity. A Scottish connection was, again, useful. Hence, "The Bombay Jute Bank of Iceland".

If only this informative volume had been on the bookshelves of more treasurers. :-)

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