Fraud; I love it. Fiction depends on it, and genre fiction elevates fraud to art. All best selling fiction is about fraud. Oh the thrill of the swindle, the tension of the false identity, the smug comfort of well laundered money! Conspiracies aren’t about conspiracy, they’re about FRAUD. Why conspire to break the law if there isn’t a pot of gold at the end of the plot? And, the bigger the pot of gold, the more fun it is. We all know there are people out there flaunting the law, gaming the system, cashing in on some cleaver shortcut, and we all want to know how they’re doing it. That’s my genre. I’ve been a passionate student of fraud for 35 years. I’ve studied the masters; Bernie Kornfeld, Robert Vesco, the Butcher Brothers, the Penn Square/Continental Illinois Bank failure, Marc Rich, Bernie Madoff, and dozens more. I mine the tiny details of smuggling, money laundering, stock manipulation, and class action litigation to find the stories, characters, and techniques that will keep readers up at night.
After fraud comes schadenfreude, the second essential element of fiction. Schadenfreude is the pleasure we feel when the bad guy gets it in the end. It’s a universal emotion; enjoying the suffering of others. Cheap genre fiction; that schlock that hack writers churn out, is nothing more than a heinous crime and a bad end for the perp. We writers should do more. Readers deserve to learn something, even in genre fiction. Not so they’ll do it, because good fraud is very hard to pull off, but because people enjoy knowing.
Today two of my books were at #2 and #3 on Amazon’s Top 100 Bestseller List in the financial thriller category. The Other Pilot and The Devil on Chardonnay are geopolitical action thrillers; but they’re basically telling a tale of FRAUD. The next book, The Mingrelian is about spies, money laundering, embargoes, and Iran’s nuclear weapons program. I’t will be finished soon.