Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of the investment banking thriller as a genre is brought to you by mystery / thriller author Marietta Miemietz.
The investment banking thriller – a new genre?
When I published my first book, the humorous investment-banking thriller Off-site, I was curious to see how it compared to other investment banking thrillers. I naturally assumed that investment-banking thrillers constituted a genre. I typed “investment banking thriller” into the search box on amazon.com/books – and was startled to realize that I got a mere thirteen results, compared with 1,647 medical thrillers and a staggering 2,875 legal thrillers. Why the big difference? Possibly, some of the authors and publishers of legal and medical thrillers possess superior tagging skills, thus increasing the likelihood that their books show up in such relatively narrow searches. However, this is not a satisfactory explanation for the extremely wide gaps. A more sobering alternative view is that the genre of investment-banking thrillers has yet to be developed.
Skeptics might argue that this is never going to happen, as investment-banking thrillers would invariably be completely predictable and thus utterly boring. The plot would always have to be a variation of the Ruthless-jillionaire-gets-ultra-greedy-and-nearly-brings-down-bank-while-murdering-everyone-who-suspects theme – hardly intriguing enough to compensate the reader for wading through hundreds of pages of financial jargon from delta-hedges to bail-in bonds and spread-betting. But an investment-banking thriller doesn’t have to be about extremely sophisticated financial crime as a senior executive cunningly bypasses a plethora of rules that are not properly policed by the bank’s control rooms. Having spent fifteen years working in the financial services industry and thus having interacted with myriad characters in an often dysfunctional environment it is my firm opinion that investment banks make great background for all sorts of mysteries and crime. High-powered, ruthless executives with a relentless drive to make as much money as possible for the banks that employ them represent only a small minority of a modern investment-bank’s staff. Instead, trading floors are home to a great many box-tickers, cost-cutters, opportunists and do-gooders, all of whom have their own, not immediately obvious, agendas, internal networks and frequently, ugly secrets. Why not draw on them for inspiration when creating characters and plotting stories?
Off-site is a thriller set in a crumbling investment-bank. The protagonist, Aline, has to attend an off-site meeting on her boss’ spooky residence on the coast of Cornwall and soon has reason to suspect that one of her colleagues is a psychopath and that she may not get out alive. I could have chosen any other setting for that particular story – nearly any other industry or even a big family with a dark past would have done just as well. I chose investment-banking for authenticity, because it is the industry I know best. I appear to have succeeded in my quest for authenticity: despite all my efforts to put a humorous spin on the bank’s problems and my frequent exaggerations, most of my reviewers have declared that investment-banking is just like that!
In this context, it is worth noting, however, that I took a few creative liberties when writing Off-site. MY favorite invention is the secluded residence Moorland Manor, where the off-site meeting takes place. I have heard that some investment-bankers were inspired to pursue a banking career by Gordon Gecko, the villain in the original Wall Street movie, who was brilliantly portrayed by Michael Douglas. I sincerely hope that nobody ever embarks on an investment-banking career because they are lured by the prospect of an invitation to their boss’ fancy residence somewhere on the coast. They would be bound to be disappointed. In reality, cash-strapped investment-banks are much more likely to hold their “off-site” meetings on-site, in shabby internal meeting rooms. I invented Moorland Manor because I didn’t want to put my readers through a thriller that was completely devoid of atmosphere – not even for the sake of authenticity. These tweaks notwithstanding, much of the book’s sinister atmosphere is actually derived from its investment banking setting.
I believe that there is scope for many more investment-banking thrillers. I hope that many authors will give it a whirl and eventually create a new genre. I personally will take a short break from writing investment-banking thrillers, as I am currently working on an idea for a medical thriller.
Marietta Miemietz was born in Germany. She has spent 15 years working in the financial services industry, mainly as a pharmaceutical equity research analyst, in the US, Germany and most recently, the UK. She has wanted to be a writer since she learned to read and write and always carries a notebook to capture funny or bizarre anecdotes. She likes to write books that are entertaining, upbeat, humorous, packed with suspense and unexpected developments and that have a happy ending. Portraying interesting and endearing characters is her first priority.
During her many years in investment banking, she has met many talented and entrepreneurial people, as well as some annoying and crazy specimens. One day, she took a walk and thought about how much more exciting it would be if one of the latter was a dangerous psychopath; the idea for her first thriller “Off-site” was born. The protagonist, Aline, has some auto-biographical features; all of the other characters, events and places are purely fictitious, but never far-fetched. Marietta speaks several languages and is working on the German and French translations for “Off-site”, as well as a new thriller.
If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.
The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with novelist and non-fiction author, and radio host Jim Strait – the four hundred and forty-third of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.
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Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.