Sunday, 14 February 2010

"The Frontrunner", Paul Kilduff

Reading this in early 2010 one is struck by how topical Kilduff's 2001 financial thriller is. Telling the story of collapsing hedge funds, global economic crisis, and massive governmental intervention in financial markets, Kilduff could in many ways be describing the last few years, rather than a thoroughly fictional early century crisis stemming from the assassination of the Chinese premier in Hong Kong. Swap Lehman Brothers for Alpha Beta Capital and "The Frontrunner" could readily fit into contemporary events.

Paul Kilduff's financial thrillers do tend to follow a familiar, almost formulaic, path. There's the misunderstood and manipulated central character, the bad guys indulge in profoundly deviant sexual practices, the glamorous (and not so glamorous) locations where finance takes place are depicted, and ultimately there's a wrapped up happy ending. In this light, his output isn't quite as satisfyingly varied as Michael Ridpath, but it's still telling that Kilduff has an appeal that kept me up to the small hours last night and there was an urge to finish off "The Frontrunner" this morning.

Enjoyably the writing makes complicated financial instruments readily accessible and the lifestyle of working in finance is exposed as being tiring, tawdry, and unromantic. Most tellingly Kilduff is damning of consultancy work, accurately boiling it down to it being a case of borrowing a client's watch to tell them the time, and then sending them a large bill.

Sadly having read "The Frontrunner" I've exhausted the stock of Kilduff's financial thrillers. I've enjoyed them a lot and as with any author whose output I've exhausted, there's a sense of wistfulness involved. I'd like to have known more about Mitchell Leonberg continued through the decade, and in particular how they'd cope with the cataclysm of the last few years. Does the widespread ire at bankers make financial thrillers more appealing to publishers? One can only hope so.