Excerpt: Jed Rubenfeld's "Death Instinct"

Photo: The Death Instinct by Jeb Rubenfeld
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Best selling author Jed Rubenfeld released his second book "The Death Instinct" where he gives the reader a fictional interpretation of what happened September 16, 1920 when a bomb exploded on Wall Street.

Read an excerpt from the book below, then check out some other books in the "GMA" library.

DEATH IS ONLY THE BEGINNING; afterward comes the hard part. There are three ways to live with the knowledge of death—to keep its terror at bay. The fi rst is suppression: forget it's coming; act as if it isn't. That's what most of us do most of the time. The second is the opposite: memento mori. Remember death. Keep it constantly in mind, for surely life can have no greater savor than when a man believes today is his last. The third is acceptance. A man who accepts death—really accepts it—fears nothing and hence achieves a transcendent equanimity in the face of all loss. All three of these strategies have something in common. They're lies. Terror, at least, would be honest. But there is another way, a fourth way. This is the inadmissible option, the path no man can speak of, not even to himself, not even in the quiet of his own inward conversation. This way requires no forgetting, no lying, no groveling at the altar of the inevitable. All it takes is instinct. At the stroke of noon on September 16, 1920, the bells of Trinity Church began to boom, and as if motivated by a single spring, doors fl ew open up and down Wall Street, releasing clerks and message boys, secretaries and stenographers, for their precious hour of lunch. They poured into the streets, streaming around cars, lining up at favorite vendors, fi lling in an instant the busy intersection of Wall, Nassau, and Broad, an intersection known in the fi nancial world as the Corner—just that, the Corner. There stood the United States Treasury, with its Greek temple facade, guarded by a regal bronze George Washington. There stood the white-columned New York Stock Exchange. There, J. P. Morgan's domed fortress of a bank. In front of that bank, an old bay mare pawed at the cobblestones, hitched to an overloaded, burlap-covered cart—pilotless and blocking traffi c. Horns sounded angrily behind it. A stout cab driver exited his vehicle, arms upraised in righteous appeal. Attempting to berate the cartman, who wasn't there, the taxi driver was surprised by an odd, muffl ed noise coming from inside the wagon. He put his ear to the burlap and heard an unmistakable sound: ticking.

The church bells struck twelve. With the fi nal, sonorous note still echoing, a curious taxi driver drew back one corner of moth-eaten burlap and saw what lay beneath. At that moment, among the jostling thousands, four people knew that death was pregnant in Wall Street: the cab driver; a redheaded woman close by him; the missing pilot of the horse-drawn wagon; and Stratham Younger, who, one hundred fi fty feet away, pulled to their knees a police detective and a French girl. The taxi driver whispered, "Lord have mercy."

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