Ridpath, Michael 1961–
Ridpath, Michael 1961–
Born March 7, 1961, in Devon, England; son of Andrew (a land agent) and Elizabeth Ridpath; married Candy Helman (a banker), January 19, 1985 (died, 1992); married Barbara Nunemaker (a banker), October 1, 1994; children: (first marriage) Julia, Laura; Nicholas. Education: Merton College, Oxford, graduated, 1982. Religion: Church of England.
Home—London, England. Agent—Carole Blake, Blake Friedmann Literary Agency Ltd., 122 Arlington Rd., London NW1 7HP, England. E-mail—[email protected]
Novelist, Saudi International Bank, London, England, began as credit analyst, became bond trader, c. 1982-91; worked for Apax Partners, 1991-94. Royal Literary Fund, treasurer.
Crime Writers Association.
Free to Trade: A Novel of Suspense, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.
Trading Reality, Mandarin (London, England), 1996, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1997.
The Marketmaker, Signet (New York, NY), 1998.
Final Venture, Signet (New York, NY), 2000.
The Predator, Michael Joseph (London, England), 2001.
Fatal Error, Michael Joseph (London, England), 2003.
On the Edge, Michael Joseph (London, England), 2005.
See No Evil, Michael Joseph (London, England), 2006.
Michael Ridpath was working in London's financial district, known as the City, when he decided to try his hand at fiction writing during his off hours. Over the course of three years he produced three drafts of what eventually became Free to Trade: A Novel of Suspense. This murder mystery, which features a bond trader as its first-person narrator, initially attracted attention for the large sums paid for it by both British and American publishers. Free to Trade was also dubbed the first of a new genre, the "City thriller," by Harry Mount of the Times Literary Supplement. Ridpath has since published several more novels in the same vein. Critical response to these novels has been mixed, with some reviewers faulting the author for simplistic characterization and faulty plotting, while others have praised his quick pacing and ease in presenting complicated business and technical matters.
In an interview with John Russell in Books, Ridpath credited much of the early excitement over his first novel to the inherent interest of the City: "It has a very unnatural feel about it," the author observed; "everyone is wearing suits and walking very fast." The excitement of gambling with huge amounts of other people's money, and the fact that working in the City has become attractive to many young university graduates, who "within a fairly short space of time … get the opportunity to play around with quite a lot of responsibility and money," are factors that contribute to an atmosphere Ridpath characterized as ethically murky, if not downright criminal, in his interview with Russell. "I wrote the book for myself and my friends who would know a lot about the world of the City," Ridpath continued. "I didn't attempt to skate over the detail to make it simple for the lay reader…. It's much better to include the detail because it's not that difficult and is quite understandable really."
Ridpath once told CA: "My aim is to write novels that entertain. I believe the financial world is a good place to do this. Finance impinges on almost every aspect of modern-day life. It is exciting: the sums of money are large, the pace is fast, and the ethics are difficult—even for the basically honest. It provides a modern backdrop for the classic struggle of good against evil, of youth, courage, and integrity against wealth, power, and greed."
Free to Trade is about Paul Murray, a former Olympic athlete turned bond trader in the City, whose life takes a decidedly dangerous turn when one of his colleagues is found dead, floating in the Thames. Though the police suspect no foul play, Murray begins to look into the victim's last deals in an attempt to uncover a possible motive for what appears to him a murder. The fraud he discovers sends him to financial centers around the world as he seeks out the mastermind behind the financial crime and the murder.
Aside from Ridpath's protagonist, critics generally found the author's characters "fairly insubstantial," as Mount commented in the Times Literary Supplement.
But a Publishers Weekly correspondent wrote: "Ridpath paces matters briskly, conveys the cutthroat ambience of the markets and, along the way, provides a solid seminar in venture capitalism." Sunday Times contributor Philip Kerr pointed out: "There is, of course, plenty of authentic detail about what it is like to be a trader and, as you might expect, this is the strongest feature of the book." Kerr added that Free to Trade "seems promising rather than accomplished, in the sense that Ridpath promises to do with the City what Dick Francis and John Grisham have done with horse-racing and the law—milk it for all its fictional worth."
After Free to Trade was accepted for publication, Ridpath hoped to split his time between trading and writing. However, the writing soon became more important than his work in the City. He soon delivered another trading-related suspense story called Trading Reality. Following the advice of his editor, Ridpath steered away from a plan to form a plot and characters resembling those of Free to Trade and tackled a subject in which he had a strong interest, virtual reality businesses. In this second novel, trader Mark Fairfax is submerged in the quickly developing technical field when his brother Richard is killed. Mark takes Richard's place as managing director of a virtual reality company, hoping to keep the business from going bankrupt. However, he risks meeting his brother's fate as he looks for the murderer—who also wants to ruin the company. The key to both the death and plot against the company may lie in the supposedly secret "Project Platform," which promises to put the company far ahead of its competition.
Trading Reality proved to be a strong follow-up to Ridpath's authorial debut. In Booklist, Wes Lukowsky admired how "Ridpath carves his complex plot with deft strokes" as well as his "believably consistent" characters and the "witty mix" of the dialogue. Lukowsky also noted the author's ability to digest difficult business and technical details in a way that support the plot without slowing it down. Library Journal reviewer Marylaine Block called the business thriller an "exciting, suspenseful novel" and rated it with "the best of Paul Erdman's financial thrillers." In Publishers Weekly, a critic offered positive comments on the book's pacing, Scottish setting, and insider knowledge: "The thrills here lie as much in carefully thought out financial and digital tools as in the humans who wield them." The review predicted that readers would not be put off by the "not very original" story.
For his next novel, Ridpath looked to another area of interest that he had been unable to explore as a trader, the emerging bond markets in developing countries. In The Marketmaker he chose to focus on trading in Brazil. His protagonist is an academic, Nick Elliot, who tries his hand at trading with the City firm of Dekker Ward. There he meets the high-profile trader Ricardo Ross, a man known as the "marketmaker" because of his dominance in Latin American bonds. A series of events at the company including a firing, a robbery-murder, and the kidnapping of a woman he is interested in romantically convince Nick to look for an underlying problem.
For Final Venture, Ridpath crafted a story set in Boston, where venture capitalist Simon Ayot has enjoyed a happy life. But things start to fall apart at work and at home. Ayot's colleagues turn down his proposal to give more funds to a company he favors, and when his father-in-law is killed, he becomes a suspect. When even his wife is unsure of his involvement and leaves him, Ayot crosses the country, seeking to clear himself of suspicion.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 15, 1997, Wes Lukowsky, review of Trading Reality, p. 1231.
Books, January, 1995, interview by John Russell and review of Free to Trade: A Novel of Suspense, pp. 6-7.
Library Journal, January, 1997, Marylaine Block, review of Trading Reality, p. 150.
Publishers Weekly, November 7, 1994, review of Free to Trade, p. 65; December 16, 1996, review of Trading Reality, p. 51; July 24, 2000, review of Final Venture, p. 74.
Sunday Times (London, England), January 22, 1995, Philip Kerr, review of Free to Trade, sec. 7, p. 1.
Times Literary Supplement, February 17, 1995, Harry Mount, review of Free to Trade, p. 22.
Michael Ridpath Home Page, http://www.michaelridpath.com (July 23, 2008).