Michael Sear’s new book Long Way Down recently got a 5 star rating by us and made it into Mystery Tribune’s Must Read list. That’s why we decided to feature a conversation with the man behind this new title. What comes below is the author’s take on the new book and his inspirations.
1. LONG WAY DOWN is the third in your series of financial thrillers. What financial misdeeds are at the center of the story this time?
The financial crime that is the inciting incident for LWD has to do with insider trading, a crime that in the U.S. is not defined by code, but by precedent. I can’t say much more without revealing important plot points, but the book reveals that there are greater crimes which are prosecuted less.
2. How often does insider trading happen and it’s not prosecuted? How often does it happen and it is prosecuted, but it fails to make any headlines?
It depends upon your definition, I suppose. I would argue that every investor wants to be in first with the information that will move a stock. However, most investor’s would agree that executives or board members who trade the stock of a company to which they owe allegiance – and to the investors in that company – based upon privileged information are not acting in the best interests of the owners of that company. In recent years the U.S. Attorney’s office in New York has made insider trading a priority and they have grabbed headlines doing it. I don’t know how much they have really helped the markets or the average investor in the process.
3. As you point out in Long Way Down, it is hard to assess what is insider trading and what is not.
Why? There is no statute defining the crime. Therefore it is really up to the individual judge whether to allow a prosecution to move forward or not. Most developed nations have specific laws regarding what constitutes insider trading. The U.S. needs a public debate on the subject and passage of a law defining the crime.
4. How do federal investigators determine what is public vs. insider information?
The recent reversal on appeal of the conviction of two traders hangs on this very topic. More to come. If Congress fails to act, the Supreme Court may eventually have to force the issue.
5. The firm at the center of the novel is a bio-engineering lab involved in alternative fuel source research. How did you conduct your own research on this topic?
Research can be a bore or a delight. I had a great time reading up on the topic and talking with students and professionals in the field. The problem that this lab is attempting to overcome is a very real one that scientists all over the globe are working on.
6. You left Wall Street yourself to become a writer. Why? Do you ever miss that other world?
I miss the community and the daily comraderie, but I do not miss the stress and the headaches. It was fun for a long time, and then it wasn’t. In the years that I have been away from trading, the business has continued to change with greater reliance on technology and more limits on individuals. But I am as excited now about writing as I ever was about trading and I plan on doing it for many years to come.
7. Leaving Wall Street in 2005, how do you continue to stay on top of new developments in the business world?
I keep up with friends who are still involved in the markets and I read the financial press. But one of the great truths about Wall Street is that there is never anything truly ‘new’. Everything is recycled and greed is eternal. As early as there was money, there were money-changers and money lenders. And there were fraudsters and con men, too.
8. Autism plays a central role in the series with “The Kid”. Why did you decide to make a character autistic? How did you learn about the challenges and rewards of raising an autistic child?
Autism has held a fascination for me for many years. It is so multi-faceted – each case is unique in how it presents, but yet the condition is easily identifiable. Like many of us, I have relatives who struggle with this. But as a writer, I wanted to explore the changes in my protagonist as he morphs from a cold-hearted trader to a well-rounded human being. Learning to love his very difficult son may be the greatest challenge Jason will ever face.
Like Long Way Down or Other Books By Michael Sears?
You can check out the following titles by this author. Click on the images to go to Amazon page for each book.