Sunday, September 4, 2016

Interview with Authors Michael Hyman & Andrew Capon

Tournament of Shadows

1.      What inspired you to write your book? 

MH: We wanted to write a novel, a financial thriller, which points out the need for the United States to get her economic house in order. The strength of the United States is her economy, not bullets or air craft carriers. Without a strong economy, which requires Americans to live within their financial means, not over-extending ourselves overseas, will ensure that the U.S. will be a world leader for generations to come. Our financial thriller points out the risks the U.S. is taking and to the extent that the country is at risk to a financial attack which could pose significant harm to the country, our military, social programs, etc.

AC: The global financial crisis demonstrated the inherent fragility of highly complex, interconnected systems. Since then we have seen swathes of re-regulation, which have arguably added further to complexity. Regulators, like generals, fight the last battle. The banking system has been recapitalized but at what cost? Traders will tell you that one unintended consequence is that liquidity in bond markets has evaporated.

That was the kernel of our idea: the US Treasury bond market funds the world’s only superpower. Could it be vulnerable to a well-orchestrated attack designed to increase the cost of US borrowing and threaten the dollar’s position as the world’s reserve currency?

The more Michael and I thought about it, the more we believed it could. We then built the architecture of the plot and the motivations of the protagonists. As we wrote our confidence grew.

In modern finance nothing seems far-fetched any more: no one believed Lehman could go bust, or one of the world’s largest and most respected financial institutions would knowingly launder money for Mexican drug cartels, or it would be possible to siphon billons of dollars from a high profile sovereign wealth fund, or, most germane for our story, that the supposedly most liquid security in the world (the 10 year Treasury note) could see yields fall more sharply than on any day in more than a decade and then rebound, all in the space of 12 minutes (15 October, 2014 Treasury flash crash). 

2.      What is it about? 

MH: The story is about a rogue central banker, along with other players using a Swiss hedge fund as their front and patsy to conduct a financial attack upon the U.S. markets Using a few bells and whistles in their attack strategy misdirects U.S. leaders in another direction away from the real culprits. Our heroes, are a hedge fund manager, Jack Romanov, and his longtime girlfriend, Sarah Linderman, working at the U.S. treasury department, who stumble upon specific market activities which makes no sense, sending him on a global adventure to find the culprits of such bizarre trades until Jack ultimately recognizes that it is a financial attack upon the U.S.

AC: A London-based hedge fund manager and seasoned bond trader, Jack Romanov, thinks US Treasury markets are behaving oddly. All sorts of rumors are flying around markets. Jack is convinced the only traders savvy enough to manipulate markets in this way would be another hedge fund. However, no one knows of an entity large enough to have this sort of financial firepower.

He asks his friend and mentor Saul Linderman to use his contacts to see if he can find a name. After a visiting a hedge fund in Switzerland called JS Global Saul dies. Back in London another senior trader is also found dead. The two deaths appear unrelated, but Jack is determined to work out the connection.
The action switches to Washington where Jack and Saul’s daughter, Sarah Linderman, thwart a global conspiracy devised by a vain Russian central bank governor and ideologue head of military intelligence. We don’t want to give too much away here, but a potentially globally destabilizing war, driven by Washington’s own ideologues, is also avoided. 

3.      What do you hope will be the everlasting thoughts for readers who finish your book? 

MH: A better understanding of the general direction that the U.S. is heading and we have to concentrate on our economy rather than foreign adventures and dealing with our long-term liabilities to ensure that they don’t bankrupt our children.

AC: First and foremost that they enjoyed it and that they would recommend it to friends. Our job is to entertain and engage the reader and hopefully the sales will come. There is a serious historical/ political message underlying this story as well. Countries that enjoy the privilege of having a reserve currency should treat it respectfully. History is littered with examples of countries, particularly with military ambitions, that thought they could borrow cheaply forever. That story always ends badly. The United States needs to develop fiscal discipline or it will eventually be imposed on it.

4.      What advice do you have for writers?

MH: Find a great editor!

AC: The only way to start is to start and then it is a case of KBO (keep buggering on) as Churchill would say. The other thing is not to be too emotional. This is a thriller. To be true to the genre it had to be fast-paced and plot-driven.  Even before the first draft was completed we threw away 40,000 words of back-story. Many more tens of thousands were cut before the final draft. It is an accelerated form, but we hope we can also explain some complex ideas to all of our readers.

5.      Where do you think the book publishing industry is heading? 

MH: More digital, which is rather sad, as an old timer I enjoy opening and reading a proper book rather than reading it on a digital format.

AC: Back to the future! I can’t speak for Michael, who has always stayed well ahead of trends than me, but I had always assumed the only way to be published was via an agent (step one) who sold you to an established publisher (step two). We tried that and got some positive feedback, but no deals.

My Damascene moment was when a friend called me and asked for advice on a TED talk he was about to give. We were at Cambridge together. He had studied economics and I had studied history, with an economics slant. He was talking about the power of communications and wanted to know what I believed to be the most influential book in history, other than the obvious religious texts, the Bible, Koran, etc.

I was about to say The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx, but paused and answered, Common Sense by Thomas Paine. In some recess of my brain I knew that this might have been the most widely distributed book by household, in what is now the USA, ever.

It is a fabulously written polemical pamphlet and well worth reading now for any US citizen that wants to understand what their Republic stands for and for the transcendent power of Paine’s prose. I checked my sources and I was right. Paine’s Common Sense was a publishing sensation that has never been repeated and the first volume was self-published in Pennsylvania in 1775.

That felt empowering. I thought self-publishing wasn’t a second best option.

6.      What challenges did you have in writing your book? 

MH: We tried very hard to find an agent to no avail, however we were told and taught to use a legitimate self-publishing company owned by a major publishing house. Archway/Simon & Shuster fit that bill.

AC: Time, and responsibility, always. I would love to be that mythical artist in a garret, preferably with a stipend from a wealthy aunt somewhere or other funding my dreams. But that artistic utopia has never been available. I’ve needed to work full-time in quite exacting jobs to take care of my family.

7.      If people can only buy one book this month, why should it be yours?          

MH: It is a thriller unlike anything written, pertinent to the U.S. presidential election, it is a story that could happen one day if we don’t start getting our financial house in order. And it is a real page-turner, exciting and entertaining read which could be serialized. An enjoyable, educational read for the summer reader.

AC: I want people to read this book. I love America and loathe some of the venal and kleptocratic regimes around the world I have seen up close.  I want America to stay a powerful force for good. I want people to read this and for it to give them pause for thought. There would be nothing more valuable than that.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2016 ©.

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