A witty and acerbic novel for our times about corporate greed, the hubris of bankers, contradictions of the clean energy economy and their unintended consequences on everyday people. Finance, environmentalism, rare-earth mining and human frailties collide in a complex of flawed motives. We follow Peter Mount, the self-made Chief Executive of a London-based rare-earth mining company as he and his business are buffeted by crisis-torn Royal Bank of Scotland and by his own actions, real and imagined. Meanwhile, in Oregon, Amy Tate and her group of local environmental activists do their contradictory part to undermine a component of the green economy, unwittingly super-charged by the Chinese state. The repercussions of events in pristine Oregon are felt in the corporate and financial corridors of New York and London with drastic consequences. This is a deeply involving novel about the current workings of capitalism, miscommunication, causes and unexpected effects, love and survival.
Another book, I would love to have read and reviewed, but sadly I did not have time, so sharing an amusing guest post from the author here instead:
Guest Post- Keith Carter-The Umbrella Men
How I came to publish my first novel – aged 60
I’m terrible at parties; I can’t ‘circulate’. It just seems so rude to change conversational groups: you must either slope off hoping no-one will notice, which is unlikely, or make an excuse – and mine always come out sounding like ‘I’ve just seen someone more interesting than you, so am off to talk with them instead’. So I normally end up stuck, talking to the dullest person at the party, the socially abler people (which is everyone else) having successfully ‘circulated’ away.
Oh, hang on – maybe that means I am the dullest person at the party…
So I’m going to let you in on a secret of mine. Call it Carter’s First Law of Social Awkwardness. It’s got me through many potentially disastrous situations of this sort, and states that: Everyone, including the dullest person in the room, knows something that you don’t. Make it your task is to find out what it is, and you won’t be bored. This works because
- You might learn something, always a good thing and
- You will end up talking with someone about the one topic on which they are an expert: themselves.
Carter’s First Law of Social Awkwardness is based on the commonly-held belief that ‘everyone has a book in them’. Fortunately, perhaps, most of these books will never be written. People have neither the skills nor the time. The Umbrella Men, my first novel, was written because suddenly I did have the time.
I made myself redundant. No, that sounds like I had more say in the matter than was the case; I was forced to make myself redundant. And the circumstances of it made me angry, which – with an associated need for catharsis – gave me the motivation as well as the opportunity to write the book.
My enforced self-redundancy was the consequence of a corporate loan taken out with a major bank in 2007, just before all the Lehman Brothers stuff kicked off. The long story is fictionalised The Umbrella Men; to cut it short, the bank was going rapidly and spectacularly bust and turned on its small business clients in a vain attempt at repairing its balance sheet. In the resulting chaos, companies went bust, people lost their livelihoods, marriages failed, suicides were contemplated. As CEO of one of these small bullied borrowers the buck stopped with me, so the solution involved my asking myself to leave the company.
That I, as a taxpayer, was then forced to play my part in saving that same bank, and that not a single senior banker faced criminal charges anywhere for this trillion-dollar global banker bail-out – only heightened my need to get this story out of me and onto the page.
Maybe I have your sympathy now; if so, here’s how to lose it: I was a banker myself once. It was a long time ago and I was a lot younger… The reason I am ’fessing up in this way is that this part of my history gives me an unusual (for an author) perspective on the banking scandal and the motivations – business and otherwise – that caused it. In other words, The Umbrella Men is informative as well as entertaining.
The job I was forced out of was a full-on 12-hours-a-day affair, so it left quite a hole. Like many people, I spent most of my working time in front of a computer screen. Diverting a good few of those newly-available 12 screen hours to writing was a good way of getting out from under my wife’s feet, and splendidly cathartic. I wrote in the basement at home, in cafés and bars, on a boat, on trains – wherever I was and could take my laptop. All the things I would dearly have loved to do to various bankers were suddenly in my power – albeit via a keyboard, not a baseball bat.
I’d like to say that I quickly hammered The Umbrella Men out in a few weeks, then, as a man with a burden lifted from his shoulders, skipped off to another project with a song on my lips. Far from it. It took years. There were loads of ‘excellent’ drafting and style ideas along the way, few of which survived the scrutiny of the morning-after reread. The fact that I am a slow and inaccurate typist doesn’t help; it does, however, fit perfectly with my inability to form a coherent sentence or find, for want of a better word, le mot juste first time around.
So, to those of you convinced that you have a book in you I say this: Carter’s First Law of Social Awkwardness says that you almost certainly have. Write it! All you need is the time and a whole load of pent-up emotion.
Keith Carter was born in Scotland to a Dutch mother and British father. He read Economics at Cambridge, taking a First in 1981 when he was elected a Scholar – too late to enjoy the privilege of walking on the grass. He worked as an investment banker before going straight and running a small pharmaceutical company. He is now a writer and business consultant and lives in East London with his daughters. He enjoys travel, politics and economics, reading and writing, languages, music, the English Lake District, sailing of all kinds and meals with family and friends. Keith suffered a spinal cord injury in March 2018 and since rides a wheelchair.