Most literary depictions of the crash have been flawed. Is 21st-century finance a suitable subject for fiction?by John Gapper / September 28, 2012 / Leave a comment
I can’t imagine what came over me when, after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008, I set out to write a financial thriller. Actually, I can. I’d thought for a long time of taking a diversion from journalism into fiction—an idea that culminated in A Fatal Debt, my novel just published in the UK. I was based in New York for the Financial Times when the crash broke out, and I thought, if this isn’t the right time, then when? It helped that other journalists had grabbed the best non-fiction ideas.
I had a longstanding fear about such a venture. It felt as if it would be awfully hard to turn the goings-on in the City of London or on Wall Street into something that the reader could not only understand but also enjoy. I have read many efforts, both literary and commercial, and most felt to me flawed. The reader can judge whether I did any better.
Few novels set in the world of finance manage to be realistic while succeeding as works of art or commerce. The exceptions stand out in the memory—two of my favourites are Margaret Drabble’s The Ice Age (about a 1970s property developer who goes to jail) and Anthony Trollope’s The Way We Live Now.