“Ridpath has all but cornered the market in glossy financial thrillers
and this one is well up to standard”
Mail on Sunday
“For sheer entertainment, there's nothing in the mystery genre
to beat a well-constructed thriller… …the new book
of Michael Ridpath provides a master-class in how it's done. I
read it in one gulp.”
Ruthless, selfish, dangerous. In fact, just right for the job.
At top investment bank Bloomfield Weiss, they taught them to be winners, predators, killer deal-makers. While on the bank's training programme in New York, Chris and Lenka had become part of a close-knit gang of ambitious trainees, working and playing hard. But when a failed affair sparked a confrontation during a drunken boat-trip, one of the gang died, leaving the rest to cover up the truth of the tragedy.
Ten years later a helpless Chris watches Lenka’s lifeblood soak into the snow of a Prague street – and his world falls apart. With his friend and business partner dead, Chris not only has to fight to keep his company afloat in the face of nervous investors, but must also discover who is behind Lenka’s seemingly random – but coolly professional – murder. Then others are killed, and it looks like Chris could be next.
Now it seems that their shared past might contain an even more sinister secret than Chris had thought. And that someone from the training programme took their lessons rather too seriously. And they won't let anyone stand in their way…
Writing The Predator…
The Predator was fun to write. Of all my books so far, it is the most personal. Not because the financial background or the crimes represent my own direct experience, but because it describes the transition from idealistic graduate trainee to red-blooded investment banker.
I went on such a training programme when I was twenty-two. Nearly fifty graduates were gathered in New York to be taught the basics of banking and to be indoctrinated that they worked for the best bank in the world. I learned a lot about banking and I fear some of the indoctrination rubbed off too, although I would never have admitted it then. I also had a great time. British bankers at that time were paid considerably less than our American counterparts and so we were given an additional allowance to make up for it. Thanks to a mistake by Personnel, we were paid this twice. We took it as our duty to spend all of this during our six months in New York.
I made many friends there, many of whom I still keep in touch with eighteen years later. I met my wife and four of my children's godparents. Even now I can travel to Sao Paulo or San Francisco, Zurich or Highgate and be sure of a place to stay. But the world's big banks have changed significantly since 1983 and these changes have affected all my former colleagues in one way or another.
In 1983 we were taught that the best bankers were loyal, conservative, intelligent, cautious and only dealt with people they trusted. They were good team players. They would be paid well but not obscenely. As they spent decades at the bank, they could expect promotion and respectability. Above all they would have pride in working for the best bank in the world.
Something happened between 1985 and 1995. Now the best bankers get paid the highest bonuses, often millions of dollars. They change employers every two or three years, either attracted by guarantees of even higher bonuses or thrown out for a poor year's results. There is no shame in this; the only shame is to be underpaid and do nothing about it. Employment contracts are scrutinised by lawyers who also examine their clients' redundancy packages a year or two later.
The reactions of my contemporaries vary. Some throw up their hands in despair at the way the world has changed and sink slowly down the corporate ladder. Some, like me, get out. Most take to the new regime with varying degrees of enthusiasm. And some go small, setting up "boutiques" involved in corporate finance, venture capital or fund management. What of course links the bankers of 1983 with 2001 is ambition. They were always ambitious. And for some, the spirit of today is more congenial to that ambition than the spirit of the past.
From such ingredients, it is easy to draw up a fictional group of friends with enough different motivations to keep a plot whirring. But while I found The Predator easy to write, I found it difficult to plan.
I started off well enough, by writing thirty pages of memories of my own training programme. But then I got confused. Naturally the story would be split into two, the training programme and then the events of ten years later. These would revolve around a hedge fund, where most of the graduates had ended up. At this stage I thought the book was about the hedge fund. These are fascinating animals: they are aggressive, speculative funds usually managed by a few highly skilled investors. The most famous is run by George Soros, but there are literally thousands more in existence. I wanted to use the training programme as a means of explaining the wrinkles in this hedge-fund story. It all got very complicated.
Finally, after three months I gave up, ripped up what I had written, and started again. This time I focussed on events on the training programme and let the hedge fund take care of itself. This worked. Everything clicked and I was soon writing.
I enjoyed writing The Predator. But what is most important to me is that you enjoy reading it.
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