Systemic risk is coming to a bookstore near you.
"Union Atlantic," a forthcoming novel by Adam Haslett, tells the story of a (fictional) president of the New York Fed who tries to prevent a market meltdown after the collapse of a (fictional) bank the Fed regulates. The book got a glowing write-up in the current issue of Esquire, which compared it to the sweeping works of Norman Mailer and Tom Wolfe.
Haslett told the magazine that he finished the book in September 2008 — just as Lehman Brothers was failing and the real-life Fed (and other regulators) were trying to avert a systemic disaster. Passages like this one seemed eerily prescient: "Five hundred points off the Dow was one thing. Disruption of the credit markets was another."
Esquire has posted an excerpt from the novel's prologue, but unfortunately for us at BankThink, it doesn't reveal much of the plot. It does, however, establish one of the main characters: Doug Fanning, who will eventually become a rogue executive at the fictional bank, Union Atlantic (natch). When we meet him, Fanning is in the navy. His ship has accidentally shot down an Iranian passenger plane, which his superiors mistook for a fighter jet. Asked by a senior officer to leave the docked boat and drive into Bahrain to get more cigarettes (which are being doled out to the crew as a token recognition of the ordeal they've been through), he replies, "But I've got mine."
Spoken like a true heir to Henry F. Potter, the villainous banker in "It's a Wonderful Life." But we may have to wait until Feb. 9, when Random House's Nan A. Talese imprint releases "Union Atlantic," to know if Fanning measures up to the terrifying workout executives in Wolfe's "A Man in Full."