Movie Review – Margin Call

Margin Call

Director J C Chandor

Margin Call is set over a 24 hour period in the offices of a Wall Street merchant bank teetering on the crest of the wave that would break into the financial crisis 2008.  The merchant bank is fictitious, but it does seem to be modelled on Goldman Sachs, maybe with a little Lehmann Brothers thrown in.

The fuse is lit by a brutal day of retrenchments, where people are called from their  desks, given the bad news, and marched out the door.  One such evictee is the only person smart enough to work out that something is wrong – that the bank’s  sophisticated financial products are turning into toxic loss-makers that are about to bring the bank to it’s knees.

The cast is outstanding as they portray the conflicted characters who inhabit the food chain of the bank.  At the bottom are the ex-rocket scientist Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto) and his twitchy fellow analyst Seth Bregman (Penn Badgley), then their boss, the street-wise Will Emerson (Paul Bettany). His boss is the long-serving head of trading Sam Rogers (Kevin Spacey), then there is his young and illusive boss Jared Cohen (Simon Baker), and the person on whose watch things have gone bad,
risk chief Sarah Robertson (Demi Moore).  There is no doubt who is at the top of the food chain – chief executive John Tuld (Jeremy Irons) arrives to the pre-dawn emergency meeting in a helicopter.

The strength of the film is its effective portrayal of the real world ethical dilemmas facing the characters.  There is no right answer, there is no noble course of action – they have to choose how they are going to act, individually and together, without knowing how bad
the outcome is really going to be.   There are characters to love and to hate, but no-one is a clean-skin hero.

Spacey is a standout, and without giving it away, his role in the poignant and rather surprising end of the film is a highlight.

The screenplay was nominated for the Best Original Screenplay Oscar this year, and in this reviewer’s opinion, it’s hard to see how it didn’t win.

Grittier and more intense than Company Men, Margin Call is a slow-burn
thriller that should not intimidate non-financial types. 

Essential viewing.


I Want to be Free!

Well, kinda!

Cracks in the Ceiling is free today. FREE!  Not that it will normally break the bank at $2.99, but this is a chance to find some more readers, maybe score some more reviews, and build some momentum for other work that is in the pipeline – and there’s a lot of that.

So download away!  But please don’t be an ebook squatter – if you download it, why not read it?

15 Civic Square

Just released yesterday is “15 Civic Square”.  While, it’s a new ebook, the three stories in it were previously published in Cracks in the Ceiling.

What the stories have in common is that they are set in the fictitious National Civic Bank.  I’ve got some more stories under development in the same setting, and these will be released as subequent books in tehe 15 Civic Square series.

“A Day at the Top” traces the inner thoughts and turmoil of the CEO of National Civic, while “The Tipping Competition” follows two close friends and co-workers through the chaos of a corporate restructure. Finally, “The Project” is the story of a customer who just can’t take it any more.

Obviously, if you’ve already bought Cracks in the Ceiling, don’t go and buy 15 Civic Square – you’ll just have to wait a while until the second book in the series – “Cake Knives Don’t Kill ‘ – comes out later in the year.

Available now for kindle and kindle apps (US, UK)

Writing Versus Counting

For much of my working life, I’ve spent my time counting.  Having worked in financial services, and qualified as an actuary at the tender age of 23, numbers and what they mean have been centre stage.  Not that words are unimportant, quite the opposite, because we create meaning for numbers by talking about them.

For the last year, I’ve spent my time with words to the exclusion of numbers.  It’s been fun – more than I imagined it would be – and two books are out in the world as a result.  They have covers, reviews, even some readers (although not many yet).  There is a draft novella and the first of a novelette series in beta reading.  I’m aiming to publish five new works of fiction this year, and one of non-fiction.

And that non-fiction work – the report of the Taliest 2012 Self Publishing Survey – is what is leading me back to numbers, spreadsheets and databases with a vengeance.  I’m loving wallowing around in the data 1,000 self-publishing authors have shared with us, looking for trends and patterns.  Who’s successful and why?  What is “success”?

This next week I will be in numbers land, and probably the next week as well.  But I needed to write down that I am missing words, and can’t wait to tell the story of the survey respondents, and to return to creating new stories of the imagination.