“Ridpath shows he is positively blossoming
in both style and content. What gives Ridpath the edge is that
as well as the thrill of the chase to unmask the killer the reader
is also caught up in the agony and the ecstasy of building a
company from the ground up.”
Set against the ferocious rise and spectacular fall of the dot.com industry, Michael Ridpath serves up another scintillating thriller
The year is 1999 and Internet companies are springing up everywhere. Anything seems possible for those who think big. So when David Lane – a quiet, cautious banker - is invited by his old friend Guy Jordan to help start up ninetyminutes.com, he decides that for once he will do something daring, something dangerous.
If only he’d realized quite how dangerous. Because Guy falls out with Tony Jourdan, his father and their biggest investor, bringing the company close to collapse. Then Tony is murdered – and David's roller-coaster ride in to danger and disaster begins…
Writing Fatal Error…
Fatal Error is about two things: the dot com boom and bust, and how friendships change over time.
I watched the internet boom with fascination during the nineteen nineties, and I wanted to write about it. But I couldn’t, at least not while it was still booming. You see, like most other rational people, I thought it would bust. This doesn't make me particularly clever: I thought it would bust in 1998. By 1999 I couldn't understand how these companies could survive, let alone justify the extra-terrestrial valuations they seemed to achieve. I thought amazon.com was a great business and seriously considered investing when it first came to the stock market in 1997 but I got cold feet, deciding that the price was too high. It subsequently went on to increase ten times over.
Since there are a couple of years between when I start writing a book and when the general public starts reading it, I couldn’t really begin until after the bust that I was so sure would come had actually arrived. So, in the summer of 2001, I looked at the tumbling market for internet shares and rolled up my sleeves.
Fatal Error is a historical novel about a specific two year period that even now seems to belong to another era. I wanted to capture the boundless optimism of those who participated in it, and the shock as their hopes were dashed. It is easy for cynics to dismiss the dot commers as deluded fantasists or con men, but I think there is something noble in what they did. They believed they were changing the world, they believed they were overthrowing established business practices and replacing them with something more meritocratic, more flexible, more fun. Sure, for a while some of them thought they were worth millions, but in my researches I only came across one man who took serious money out of the boom in actual cash, and he was a hard-headed, middle-aged Yorkshire businessman.
In researching Fatal Error, I was struck by how many young entrepreneurs turned to old friends from school when starting a company they knew nothing about. And how, once things turned sour, these friendships came under pressure and usually cracked. So friendship seemed a natural theme for the book.
The two main characters in Fatal Error are David, an accountant who is afraid of leading a dull life and wants to prove his entrepreneurial flair, and Guy, the struggling-actor son of a property tycoon who wants to show his father and himself he can make money as well. I am sure we all know some people who seen to rewrite their lives every few years. Just when things are going well, they feel the urge to shake everything up and see what happens. Sometimes I envy these people. I remember the blue-eyed, all-rounder heroes at school and wonder what has happened to them now. Guy Jourdan is the answer. But although Guy seems to have everything and David envies him for it, Guy envies David for his reliability and his straightforward family. To make ninetyminutes.com work, David and Guy need each other. But when the company starts to fall apart, they begin to question their faith in one another.
Guy is flaky. I spent a couple of fruitless months while planning the book trying to make David flaky too: an unreliable narrator. The problem was the ending, when David was revealed as a shyster. A great twist, and the reader might be impressed by how clever I had been, but he or she would be badly let down emotionally. When people read my books, they have grown to expect to see a good guy battling against the odds. I concluded that it would be a cheap trick rather than brilliant sleight-of-hand if it turned out that the good guy was really the bad guy after all.
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