Money to Burn
"This is a thriller through and through."
- Miami Herald
"At twenty-nine, Michael Cantella is a rising star at Wall Street's premiere investment bank, Saxton Silvers. Everything is going according to plan until the love of his life, Ivy Layton, vanishes on their honeymoon in the Bahamas.
Fast forward seven years. It's the eve of his thirty-fifth birthday and Michael is still on track: successful career, beautiful new wife, piles of money. Reveling in his good fortune, Michael logs into his computer, enters his password, and pulls up his biggest investment account: zero balance. He tries another, and another. All of them zero. Someone has wiped him out. His only clue is a new email message: "Just as Planned. xo xo."
With these three words Michael's life as he knows it is liquidated along with his investment portfolio. Saxton Silvers is suddenly on the brink of bankruptcy and he's the leading suspect in its ruin. Michael is left alone, framed, and facing divorce with undercover FBI agents afoot, spyware on his computer, and mysterious emails from a "JBU." Embroiled in corporate espionage, he's desperate to clear his name and face the fact that several signs point to his first wife, Ivy, as a key player. But what if Ivy has come back from the dead, only to visit on Michael a fate worse than death?
With echoes of The Firm, James Grippando's newest thriller takes readers to the inner circle of Wall Street, illustrating the very real dangers of what Warren Buffett coined, "financial weapons of mass destruction."
"A sleek, sophisticated thrill machine.... I thoroughly enjoyed this blood-soaked tale of murder and intrigue set among Wall Street's most powerful and unscrupulous players. Highly recommended."
- Christopher Reich Author of Numbered Account
"Money to Burn will get you so excited and worked up, you just may want to go out and steal and few million."
- Brad Meltzer, author of The Book of Fate
"Money to Burn is one of those all too rare novels you won't be able to stop reading once you start. It's a perfectly mixed cocktail of dry wit, sophisticated voice, believable chararacters, nonstop suspense, and plenty of vicarious pleasures. I've long been an admirer of James Grippando, but with this book, I'm convinced he's going to break through to a much bigger audience."
- Joseph Finder, author of Vanished
Grippando is a skilled writer [who] keeps us guessing. ...The novel's protagonist, Michael Cantella, is a solidly defined character in the business-thriller mold, and the supporting cast ranges from coldly manipulative to warmly—but perhaps deceptively—friendly. Recommend this one to fans of Joseph Finder's Paranoia (2004),Company Man (2005), or Power Play (2007)—all novels in which the hero is suddenly cut adrift from his friends, his colleagues, and his sense of his own life."
"Scandals involving subprime lending, short selling, and Ponzi schemes provide a timely backdrop . .. .Grippando (Intent to Kill) keeps the reader guessing . .. [and] the dramatic tension remains high with a sadistic hired killer, high-stakes wheeler-dealers, and plenty of cinematic escapes."
- Publishers Weekly
BEHIND THE BOOK ...
I wrote an Op-ed following the release of Money to Burn, and it struck a chord that resonated with everyone from Glen Beck to the Huffington Post. I hope you enjoy the message.
The Real American Dream
© Copyright James Grippando 2010
This week marks the sixty-fifth anniversary of the death of two great American heroes—Sgt. Michael Stank and Cpl. Harlon Block, two of six Marines who raised the flag on Iwo Jima. A third, PFC Franklin Sousley, was killed in action three weeks later, as the battle came to a close. The battle of Iwo Jima was the bloodiest in the history of United States Marine Corp, with almost seven thousand Americans killed and over 19,000 wounded. More than a quarter of all Medals of Honor awarded to marines during World War II recognized the bravery of men who fought (and in many cases, died) on that Pacific Island.
The Pulitzer-prize-winning photograph of the marines raising the American flag is probably the most enduring image of the Second World War. Sadly, other memories—important memories—are fading.
My father died last year, one of nearly a thousand World War II vets who die each day. He lived through the Great Depression, stood in breadlines at age eleven, and spent the four best years of his life fighting the worst war the world has ever seen. I know my eleven-year-old son now cherishes the World War II uniform his grandpa left him. More than that, however, I hope my son will remember.
I can’t say I’m optimistic. Much of my concern arises from a recent experience I had in writing my latest novel, Money to Burn. As a tribute to my father, a character named “Papa” plays a central role. It’s a Wall Street thriller, and my father was about as far away from Wall Street as you could imagine—which is exactly the point. The Greatest Generation is the perfect counterbalance to the greed and self centeredness that nearly destroyed us. In an early draft, I described Papa as “part of the generation for whom 9/11 was a dark day, but for whom December 7 was the day that will live in infamy.” The line was cut.
“Why?” you might ask. Simple: Because too many of my younger readers wouldn’t have any idea what I was talking about.
I hated to lose that line, but I agreed to change it to fit the tone of a financial thriller. The novel, after all, wasn’t about World War II. The inspiration for the story came to me when, in March 2008—another anniversary to mark this week—a group of powerful hedge-fund managers gathered for a champagne breakfast at a Manhattan restaurant. They specialized in short-trading—essentially betting that the value of a company’s stock will go down. They were rumored to have been celebrating the fall of Bear Stearns, the first major investment bank to go the way of the T-Rex and the Dodo bird. Over the next seven months, I would conduct my research by watching Wall Street implode in real time. I was writing about short-sellers trading investment banks into oblivion. Financial media fanning the flames by carelessly spreading dangerous rumors planted by unscrupulous traders. Mortgage-backed securities and credit default swaps landing insurance giants on life support. Fortunes lost overnight in Madoff-sized Ponzi schemes. I was writing about the world of high rollers and high finance.
Or was I?
Through it all, the voice that spoke loudest to me was that of a fictional character—the one based on my father. I wrote most of the outline for Money to Burn while at my father’s bedside in a skilled nursing facility. After he passed, the novel seemed to write itself. It was in the later stages of his illness, while reading early pages aloud to him, that I realized how much the crumbling financial world could have learned from a high-school graduate and a D-Day survivor who came home from the war, went to work in a print shop, supported his family, saved enough to retire at age fifty-five, and died with no debt. Zero.
Yes, I changed the line: “Papa was part of the generation for whom the American Dream was not just to buy a home, but to actually pay off the mortgage.”
What a concept.
This week—sixty-five years after the death of those Marines who are now symbols of American bravery—tell your kids about the real American Dream. Tell them about Iwo Jima and “the day that will live in infamy.”
Shame on us if they don’t remember.