Published in hardback November 2001 & in paperback March 2002.
THE IDEA : (Copyright 2001)
'The final scene was played back in slow motion from Sky to FOX, from CNN to BBC, from Channel 9 to TFL. The old woman’s hand dipped into the shopping bag and emerged almost immediately holding something grey. The freeze-frame shots later clearly showed the standard issue Smith & Wesson 0.38 revolver, weighing approximately six pounds, six rounds plus another six in a speedloader, worn usually with a straight-draw side holster and without a lanyard whilst on duty, the long gunmetal barrel suddenly shockingly visible beside the guilty police officer with the limited attention span. One round was enough from close range. The baying crowd, the revving Merc engines and the overhead helicopters drowned the sudden explosion of noise as the small-calibre bullet exited the chamber and instantly entered an already dying brain.
Camera four was live to the world as Zhiang lost his footing on the carpet and stumbled forward. His aides rushed to forestall political embarrassment of international proportions. Old age or something worse? They held his leaden arms and brought him back to his feet but it wasn’t working like it usually did. Zhiang slumped forward again. One of the bodyguards felt the warm trickle of blood on his sweaty palm.
They closed ranks in mutual protection, dodged the blaze of TV lights and camera flash bulbs, and carried him on the longest journey of their lives. They stretched him out on the rear seat of the car. He didn’t move against the black leather. The pool of blood widened. They looked at each other, silently acknowledging the awful truth. They were out of a job. Cut back to camera two as the sirens screamed and the convoy took off for the University Hospital. Between the neat rows of utterly useless crash barriers, the blood of the late Chinese Premier seeped into the red carpet.'
THE DUST JACKET :
The Chinese Premier is assassinated in Hong Kong. An elderly widow is summarily executed. Anarchy reigns on the streets. Far East stock markets plummet.
A top management consultant in London begins a confidential assignment for a global investment bank. A futures sales executive in Hong Kong fears for her job, her lifestyle, her home and her independence. A rogue trader in New York can no longer conceal a coke habit nor a huge trading loss. A proprietor of a giant US hedge fund begs for help from the Chairman of the Federal Reserve. A Swiss multi-millionaire is suddenly short of cash. His bodyguard dumps a body in a Dutch lake.
As the world’s leaders join forces to prevent global meltdown, this complex web of seemingly unconnected lives is sucked into a desperate international conspiracy. Those involved will gamble their lives in an unprecedented rescue mission where money is no object – and almost no one objects to the money.
THE CHARACTERS :
Jonathon Maynards eight-year-old son Jack crashes the video game and defaults over to the BBC lunchtime news in error. He runs into the kitchen of their terraced SW1 home to announce that some man has been shot and that he doesn’t know where Hong Kong is, Dad. Eva tells Jack not to worry. Imogen is too young to assimilate the news. Jonathon knows that the assassination will have major repercussions worldwide. His former and current career tells him as much. Hong Kong has been toppy for months, hitting successive all-time highs, technically overbought as they say back on the bond trading desks of Mitchell Leonberg Inc and now in the plush West End offices of Richemont et Cie. All it needed is a catalyst to spook the market and it has come in the form of a lady with a lethal shopping bag. The Far East markets will fall on Monday morning. Markets hate surprises and uncertainty. Once again, Jonathon is glad that he has left life in the volatile world of top-tier investment banking.
Lauren Trent has little prior interest in the state visit of their alleged leader from the wrong side of the old border. All change now. The other resting shoppers in Causeway Bay hush in Fans American Deli as they watch the shock death replayed on an overhead TV monitor behind the sandwich bar. Lauren worries about the demise of a leader in name only, about the political vacuum that now exists, about the instability that will follow and the damage to the wonderfully bullish Hang Seng index. Her millstone apartment with the Repulse Bay beach view, the leased company VW Golf, her livelihood with the FF&O sales team at the best investment bank in town, her very independence could all be in jeopardy. Life at Mitchells will change for the worse. She grimaces as she pays the outrageous bill for a BLT and decaff.
Olivier Richemont sees the banner headlines in The Sunday Times at midday when Max opens the double doors. The hired help carries the two breakfasts back into the spacious seventh floor corner penthouse of the Met on Park Lane and then leaves for the adjoining suite. He digests the news of the assassination out east and a suitably warmed chocolate croissant simultaneously. The death will impact adversely upon the firm’s latest lucrative consultancy assignment from Mitchells. He selects the optimal article to retain for his voluminous files and uses the extendable scissors blade of his favourite Swiss army penknife to cut around the margins. He chooses the Business section, as is his practice but first opens the curtains fully. Carla's slender form stirs alongside in the queen sized bed. He takes another bite of the molten chocolate and thinks about his home in the plush Geneva suburbs. He makes a mental note to telephone his wife later.
Scott Chapman admires the views of the serene Hudson from the twenty-eighth-floor balcony of his Battery Park apartment in downtown Manhattan, before switching on NBC for the early morning news. The first TV advert always makes him wince. ‘If you have five hundred dollars, you can open a cash account at E*Trade. If not, get back to work.’ If only it was that easy. The sound of the power shower and the electric razor almost drowns out the breaking news in the bedroom. Scott realises immediately that he is in trouble. He slumps down on the edge of the bed, soap and foam dampening the sheets, as he watches white smoke emerge from the barrel of the gun over and over, wishing he could rewind the videotape. Scott checks his Bloomberg. The same grim news is on the dealing screens. The markets are closed for the weekend. He needs political turmoil at this particular time like a fucking hole in the head. His fiancé Kim surfaces from sleep and slides an inquisitive hand around his towelled midriff. He brushes her away, mind fixed on the billions of naked dollars he has riding on the local markets and how many millions more he might lose when trading opens on Monday. He is in so deep at Alpha Beta Capital on Wall Street and no one else, including the proprietor Art Greenbaum, knows Scott has busted his dealing limits a long time ago.
PROLOGUE EXTRACT : (Copyright 2001)
FED CHAIRMAN FLIES TO SECRET EUROPEAN MEETING
New York, July 12th – Federal Reserve Board Chairman Walter P. Sayers left JFK airport last night on a government jet to discuss the continuing global financial crisis with his international peers.
Sayers will shortly commence several days of high-level meetings with the Governor of the Bank of England, the President of the European Central Bank, the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the Governor of the Bank of Japan. His exact destination has not been disclosed but insider Fed sources indicated to the Journal that the parties would likely rendezvous in a private luxury holiday retreat near the Mediterranean Sea.
The only topic on the agenda will be the continuing precipitous slide in world equity and bond markets. Global market indices have fallen by up to 35 per cent this month, with no apparent floor in sight. The panic has been underlined by the flight by major institutional investors to the traditional safe havens of the US currency, gold and other precious metals.
Some observers trace the root cause back to the death of a rogue futures dealer at his downtown Manhattan apartment and the subsequent collapse of the giant hedge fund, Alpha Beta Capital Inc. Other market insiders believe that global markets first became unstable when Hong Kong ruthlessly authorities crushed escalating civilian unrest, following the assassination of the Chinese premier on a visit to the former British colony three weeks ago. The Wall Street Journal
THE EVE OF DESTRUCTION
Was it the summit meeting that saved the world from Armageddon? Or was it the night on which Wall Street’s crony capitalists, backed by the taxpayer, looked after their own? Whatever the interpretation, there wasn’t much time to philosophise. Apart from festive occasions, the fortress-like Federal Reserve Bank of New York has seldom hosted such an illustrious gathering of Wall Street heavy-hitters. This time the mood was far from festive. "I sensed a lot of fear in that room,’ recalls one participant." We report on five days that shook the world. Euromoney
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WHAT THE CRITICS SAY :
'What makes The Frontrunner such an enjoyable read is the fact that Kilduff is an insider, so his descriptions and scenarios are convincing. His dealing room characters come across as authentic and the plot zips along. The Frontrunner is his third novel and should go a long way to establish him in the financial thriller genre. His jargon is kept to the minimum. This is a financial thriller that has it all and a whole lot more.' - Irish Times
'A novel way to make a killing in the City.' - Daily Telegraph
'A rattling good yarn. An exciting and topical thriller by a banking insider who knows his stuff.' - Yorkshire Post
'Kilduff's meticulous method and attention to detail allow the plot of his book to move at lightning speed around the globe. It's not an exaggeration to say Kilduff writes like John Grisham. His way of telling a story allows you the internal visuals to clearly see the film yet to be made ... thrills by the million.' - Ireland on Sunday
'An enthralling insight in to the way political events can be affected by external influences, and vice versa. The depth of knowledge about the various markets is the backbone for a plot that leads to a satisfying conclusion. A pleasure to read, smoothly written, and a convincing "what if" book. Worth a speculative punt for those not usually interested in this genre.' - The Good Book Guide
'Gripping stuff from page one. Kilduff explains the nuts and bolts of a world financial crisis so clearly that even those who can't balance their cheque book will understand and revel in this world-class page turner.' - Irish Independent
'The Frontrunner is a riveting novel, fast paced, gutsy and slick by one of Ireland's most brilliant modern story-tellers. Like its predecessors, it is packed with tension and excitement.' - Stena Magazine
'This is edge of the seat reading at its best. Kilduff manages elegantly and tactfully to keep the reader with him, to educate while enthralling, and to move along speedily to the conclusion. His experience has enabled him to write convincingly and knowledgeably while never losing the reader's understanding and interest - a sort of Dick Francis of the financial world. I'm waiting impatiently for the next thriller from this very talented writer.' - London City Airport Magazine
'Kilduff once again comes up with the goods. Interweaving various thrilling strands, he manages to spin a thoroughly compelling tale, marking his latest book out as a punchy, efficient read. Brimming with insider financial knowledge, taut dialogue and genuine page-turning excitement.' - Tony Clayton-Lea, AIB Magazine
'A heady-paced thriller with interweaving plotlines and well-written characters establishes Kilduff as one of the best new thriller writers. Set in the financial markets, this is not a book about the threat of recession but just how far people will be driven by greed. From suicide to attempted murder, only the beautifully named Phat Cat emerges unscathed as Kilduff spins his tale with the hands of a master. This Irish writer has come into his own. Quite simply, a first-rate novel from a first-rate writer.' - Shots crime fiction magazine