'Scattergood Baines' - the Book Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

'Scattergood Baines' - the Book

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Scattergood Baines, by Clarence Budington Kelland, is a book about small town America at around the turn of the 20th Century. The eponymous hero arrives on a freight train and settles in a town, using a mixture of good luck and shrewd judgement to establish himself in business.

Over the course of the book, Baines manages to pull off a variety of unlikely coups, mostly without moving from the porch of his hardware store, or indeed putting his shoes on (wiggling his toes plays a significant part in Baines' cogitative processes).

He is adept at using people's greed and foolishness against them, and at exploiting their perception of him as a stupid hick from the backwoods. And even while he was wangling what he wanted out of people, he would take the opportunity to sell them some product from his hardware store.

Baines had a master plan: to own the valley and all the timber in it. He set about achieving this by misdirection and stealth - buying parcels of land in what seemed unlikely places, but which forestalled his competitors from shipping timber from newly opened forests; obtaining land rights which would give him control of the future railway into the valley... and always doing so calmly, smiling without anybody realising what was going on.

It is a charming and whimsical book, long out of print, which was filmed in 1941. If you find a copy, it is well worth a read. Kelland (1881 - 1964) also wrote the short story, Opera Hat, on which the 1936 Gary Cooper film Mr Deeds Goes To Town and the 2002 film Mr Deeds was based.

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