Thanks to a looming takeover, happy-go-lucky trader Mickey Summer is in line to share a 150-million-pound ($223 million) cash lock-in. If he can stay alive and out of jail, that is.
One by one, his colleagues at London’s Royal Shire Bank are being bumped off. As the body count rises, the hero of Michael Crawshaw’s first novel, “To Make a Killing,” finds himself the prime suspect.
A decade ago, Crawshaw quit his own high-powered City career to home-school his five children and write fiction. After trying his hand at the tale of an uncontacted Amazonian tribe, he realized he needed to write what he knew.
The result is a pacey financial thriller whose mission is to entertain, he says. He hopes it may also allay some of the banker bashing that’s accompanied the financial crisis.
Crawshaw self-published the novel at the end of 2012. Any profits will go to Hands Together’s Tiplyang Project, which supports a school in Nepal. Joanna Lumley is the charity’s patron and Crawshaw a trustee.
Writing it has reconnected him to his past, and he’s lately been spending a lot of time revisiting old haunts and catching up with former coworkers.
“The people who haven’t got out generally look just worn down, like the walking dead,” he says. His wife told him he should be running a charity for bankers instead.
We’re chatting on a trading floor at the London Stock Exchange -- an apt backdrop, he figures, though the quiet tapping of keyboards is a far cry from the boisterous world he entered as an energy sector analyst in 1987.
He intended to leave after two years. It was the buzz that kept him there, he says. And the money, too?
“It was nice to get a Golf GTI but really the money is just instead of the gold stars. You want to get paid 200,000 because you’ve heard that Noddy down there is getting 150,000. It’s what it says about your worth to the firm.”
In the end, he stayed for more than 15 years, doing a stint as head of European research at Credit Lyonnais SA, which he didn’t enjoy. At Schroder Securities, he joined the lock-in that came with the Citi Group takeover.
Eventually, he grew to share his protagonist Mickey’s hunch that he wasn’t doing a proper job.
“I didn’t believe greatly in the value that we’re adding to the system. I felt it was all smoke and mirrors,” he says.
A church-goer, he denies that there’s anything penitential about his decision to donate proceeds from the novel.
“The book’s redemptive but I didn’t join this charity to redeem myself,” he says. “I don’t think I did anything wrong. I just got a job in the City, worked hard and then left.”
One of its key characters, Detective Inspector Frank Brighouse, might disagree, being firmly of the belief that all bankers are greedy and unprincipled. For some people, Crawshaw says, making money will always be bad.
“There’s a certain envy and nothing’s going to change their view.”
The City doesn’t do PR very well, either, as he discovered for himself, when he wound up on the losing side of a sexual discrimination claim.
Crawshaw is giving readers of his novel the chance to pick between two prizes -- either 1,000 pounds or a day in the City meeting real bankers, which he’d like to open up into an educational tour.
Asked what he misses most about the Square Mile, his answer is immediate: “The community. This was my community.”
Though he doesn’t see himself returning, he’s sticking with Mickey for a second novel that will see him running a green hedge fund and getting caught up in some insider trading.
As Crawshaw says of the world of finance, “There’re always stories, aren’t there?”
“To Make a Killing” is published by BroadPen Books (7.99 pounds for $11.99, 293 pages). For more information, go to http://www.tomakeakilling.com.
(Hephzibah Anderson writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are her own. This interview is adapted from a longer conversation.)
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