Forget about Bernie Madoff or Gordon Gekko--there's a new villain on Wall Street...
Norb Vonnegut didn't realize how close he skirted to non-fiction when he was writing his spectacular debut Top Producer. Penned before tumultuous revelations and scandals rocked the financial world in late 2008, Vonnegut's novel depicts, with an insider's solid knowledge, the tricks that the industry's real top producers pull in their frenzied pursuit of billions. Now Vonnegut sets his electrifying follow-up in the high-rolling world of hedge funds, lending his seasoned perspective to a riveting thriller.
Jimmy Cusack is the tough kid from a blue-collar neighborhood who made good on Wall Street. Well, almost. After a sterling start to his career, things have soured. His hedge fund has collapsed. The bank is foreclosing on his upscale condominium. And his wife is two months pregnant. That's the good news. When Cusack takes a "must-have" job with Leeser Capital, a Greenwich fund impervious to the capital market woes, his real troubles begin.
Vonnegut's unique insider's perspective and his intuitive, darkly humorous writing are once again on full display in this fast-talking suspense thriller. A high-stakes poker game of a book, The Gods of Greenwich is a timely and gripping read that will keep you glued to the edge of your seat until the last card is played.
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April 26, 2011
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Excerpt from The Gods of Greenwich by Norb Vonnegut
DECEMBER 11, 2007
"I want my money."
Jimmy Cusack gazed out the window of his office in the Empire State Building. Most days he savored the southern view of downtown Manhattan. To the east was Goldman Sachs, its Broad Street headquarters an impregnable fortress in the world of finance. To the west was Lady Liberty, her harbor a vast cluster of skyscrapers rising from the sea. New York was a city that attracted great fortunes--and epic brawls to manage them.
There were times inside his hedge fund when Cusack could taste the adrenaline. He reveled in the rush of competitors waging war from their granite towers, new-age monuments that celebrated the triumph of capital. There were no cease-fires sixty-one floors below. The struggle to win clients never stopped, and the ethos was "Kill or be killed" among soldiers suited in the battle rattle of Armani pinstripes and Gucci loafers.
Today was no ordinary day. Those four words, "I want my money," haunted Cusack's thoughts. Gone was the crooked smile. The creases around his lips, sometimes mistaken for a good-natured smirk, had long since vanished. His eyes a bitter blue, Cusack's face resembled the dark clouds outside his bluff of sixty-one stories.
The ambush was cold and ruthless. "Here's how it is," the lead investor said. "Tomorrow morning, James, you'll get a FedEx. Not the afternoon delivery, but the one at ten. Inside are eight redemption notices. Each one is signed and notarized, ready to go. I want my money. So do my friends who invested in your fund."
"Who else wants out, Caleb?"
"Everybody I put in."
"Not Whitney," insisted Cusack.
"What about Gould?"
"Everybody," Caleb repeated. "By my calculations, our stake totals one hundred and twenty million dollars."
"You agreed to a lockup," argued Cusack. "We're talking eighty-five percent of what I manage and--"
"My lawyers say your documents are a joke."
"You talked to Ropes and Gray?"
"What difference does it make? Just get us our money, James."
"That the way it is?" Cusack sounded hard, but he was wobbling inside.
"My hands are tied."
"Yeah. To an ax."
"I may run for governor," said Caleb. "I can't ask my buddies for contributions, not when they're losing their shirts at Petri Dish Capital or whatever the hell they call your hedge fund."
"And you think pulling your money is smart in this market?"
"Not open for discussion."
Nearly six hours had passed since then. The markets were closed. The sun was setting. And Cusack racked his brain for a Hail Mary solution, a glimmer of hope, anything to save his business from redemptions that would leave him with less than $20 million to manage.
It could take years to replace $120 million from Caleb and his fellow deserters. Until then, revenues from the remaining $20 million would not pay the light bill. Cusack had no cash left to fund operations. He had gone "all in," Texas Hold 'Em style, every chip in the pot.
With the grim reality of Caleb's words unfolding, Cusack lacked his characteristic focus. His thoughts drifted from New York's office towers to the "Irish battleships" of his youth, the three-family homes of Somerville, Massachusetts.
Jimmy had always been the scrappy kid with promise. Long ago he traded membership in Somerville's blue-collar CIA--Catholic, Irish, alcoholic--for a career on Wall Street. He was thirty-two and Ivy educated, a graduate of Columbia and Wharton. His pedigree included a one-year Rotary Fellowship in Japan and five years at Goldman Sachs. He was his family's hope for the future, the son, the entrepreneur his parents had backed.
Those were yesterday's dreams. Cusack's money-management business was going down. It was taking on water through a Titanic-sized hole in the hull, the lead investor's words tearing at him still. "Nothing personal, mind you."
Caleb, you made it personal.
"And we expect you for Christmas dinner, James."