January 6, 2016
Spring Books Preview: Fixers by Michael M. Thomas
by Mark Krotov
Over the next few days, we’ll be offering a peek at the titles we have lined up for Spring. Michael M. Thomas’s novel Fixers is out Jan 26, 2016.
How did the bankers get away with it? We’re over seven years out from the start of the financial crisis, and we’re still looking for a good answer. Even The Big Short, a movie that achieved seemingly impossible things—like wringing genuine laughs out of collateralized debt obligations—didn’t really dwell on the question.
We’re lucky, then, that Michael M. Thomas—the man who invented the financial thriller—has the answer. It’s an answer so plausible and persuasive that though Fixers is a novel—and a hugely entertaining one at that—you come away from it haunted by the starkness of its implications: is it possible that no one went to jail because the big banks saw it coming . . . and helped select the candidate who would deliver the right results? Could it be that a spectacular infusion of money into a certain nascent presidential campaign bought the financial industry all the protection it could ever want? The answers Fixers offers up aren’t comforting, but they feel bracingly, disturbingly true.
Gibbon records in his autobiography that the idea of writing The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire came to him while listening to “the bare-footed friars singing in the Temple of Jupiter.”
My own authorial epiphany, the spur to keep a diary that will be a firsthand account of a potentially nation-changing scam that I have been asked to carry out, came twelve hours ago as I stood on the corner of Madison Avenue and 76th Street and watched a multimillionaire investment banker climb into a $75,000 Mercedes SUV to be driven north to his twenty-acre Connecticut estate, where he’ll spend the weekend hammering away at a collection of museum-quality harpsichords. That’s about as far from barefooted as you can get.
The man’s name is Leon Mankoff. My former CIA boss and mentor and a current consulting client, he’s the CEO of Struthers Strauss (henceforth referred to by its trading symbol: STST), the giant investment bank and globe-bestriding power in the world of high finance. A firm admired, envied, feared, and hated by its competitors, adored by its clients and people. I’m no special fan of Wall Street myself—but if “the Street” didn’t generate the kind of wealth that underwrites the philanthropies I advise on, I wouldn’t have a job.
To jump ahead, let me tell you where I’ll be going with this. This morning, in the course of a coffee-shop breakfast, Mankoff asked me to fix next year’s presidential election.
That make your jaw drop, Gentle Reader? It should. It certainly did mine. As I thought when he described what he had in mind, “Jesus, man! You’re talking about the biggest goddamn bait-and-switch in history!”
The better part of an hour later, after he’d gone into some detail about what he has in mind, as I watched his car pull away, it occurred to me that if I go along with Mankoff’s plan, I’ll have the opportunity not only to be at the center of a defining moment in the history of American politics, but to furnish future historians with an accurate insider transcript of what was said, what got done, and why.
I think the future will value such an account. The great story of our time, according to many observers, has been the takeover of Washington by Big Money, namely Wall Street, and the other private-sector “Bigs”: Big Pharma, Big Transportation, Big Realty, and the like. The record I intend to keep, if I accept Mankoff’s commission—and there’s still some heavy thinking I have to do about that—should shed new and penetrating light on how the power game is played.
The exercise of power in America today is almost entirely an insider’s game that completely shuts out 99.9 percent of the population, which is never made truly privy to the backstage dealings that decide matters of great pith and moment—which in this great, shining republic generally run to the issue of who is to get what and for how much, with the bulk of the money coming from the full faith and credit of the American taxpayer. We groundlings are never told what was actually, exactly said and agreed, as opposed to what They—with a capital T—and their stooges in the media tell us. You might say I intend to bridge the gap between the true facts of the matter and what the public will have been told.
People argue that untrained palates profit little from knowing how the sausage gets made, and presumably this is true of both pork and politics (no pun intended, although I recognize that today the two are one and the same). I disagree. In my book, knowledge is life, ignorance is death, and if you doubt that, just check out America’s politics in this year of Our Lord 2007. I think of myself as apolitical, with a diffidence born of contempt, but I flatter myself that I have some sense of what’s going on and going down in this great nation—certainly enough to conclude that if the United States and what it theoretically has stood for is destined to perish from this earth, the prejudice-driven, media-assisted ignorance of its citizens will have been a principal cause no less than the opportunism, hypocrisy, and venality of our corporate chiefs and elected representatives.
Fixers by Michael M. Thomas
ON SALE JANUARY 26, 2016
Mark Krotov is senior editor at Melville House.