Traders have been well-represented in fiction over the years and here are a few of the best examples. Some are true to life and some strictly fictional, but all are worth reading up on.
Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
Nick Carraway, the narrator of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel The Great Gatsby, has just started working as a bond trader at the time of the book’s events. We hear a lot more from him about his frantic social life and that of his friends, including of course Jay Gatbsy, than what he does during the working day. But a few interesting bits of information about his life in “the bond business” emerge.
Carraway is keen on his new profession to start with, buying “a dozen volumes on banking and credit and investment securities”, and making the effort to have lunch with his colleagues.
But later on, many parties in, it all becomes too much. After one very heavy night, “I tried for a while to list the quotations on a interminable amount of stock,” he says, “then I fell asleep in my swivel-chair.”
Sherman McCoy in The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe (1987)
“Master of the Universe” Manhattan bond trader Sherman McCoy, the central character of Tom Wolfe’s novel The Bonfire of the Vanities, seems to have the perfect life.
His Park Avenue home has a five foot-wide walnut staircase, a marble floor, and is “the sort of apartment the mere thought of which ignites flames of greed and covetousness under people all over New York and, for that matter, all over the world”, says Wolfe. McCoy also has a very glamorous wife – and an even more glamorous mistress.
But, in this modern morality tale set in a city with extreme poverty as well as extreme wealth, everything unravels for him. Events including a car accident and a criminal trial lead to some grave trading errors and significant change in his circumstances.
Uncle Parker in The Bagthorpe Saga by Helen Cresswell (1977-2001)
Nobody knows how Uncle Parker, a character in Helen Cresswell’s series of comic stories for children about the eccentric Bagthorpe family, earns such a good living while apparently not doing much. Theories include writing The Times crossword and being a spy. But, thinks his nephew Jack, it is “something to do with stocks and shares”.
Uncle Parker’s money-making routine is pretty much perfected, the reader learns. “He rose at six, summer and winter alike, did a work out and then jogged for three miles round the fields. He then went home, took a cold shower, prepared orange juice, toast and coffee and retired into his study.”
He stays here until ten, “then the rest of the day was free”. Which is lucky, as his family – which includes a pre-teen wannabe prophet and a pyromaniac toddler – requires plenty of attention.
Trixie Thompson-Smythe in Trixie Trader by Helen Dunne (2001)
Trixie Thompson-Smythe, the heroine of Helen Dunne’s novel that uses Trixie’s nickname as its title, is a rare example in literature of a female City trader.
Trixie started life in a fictional column in The Telegraph, where she is a sort-of trading version of Bridget Jones, juggling trading floor-specific work dilemmas (where to go for lunch when the bonus doesn’t live up to expectations) and personal emergencies (your broker friend is getting depressed because he can’t play office pranks any more).
The book sees Trixie, after a few too many nights drinking Krug at the Met Bar (this is the late Nineties, after all), challenged to pull off a big trade within six weeks or lose her job. Like Trixie, the story is light-hearted and a bit ridiculous – but perfect if you’re looking for some trader escapism.
Serge Free in Various Pets Alive & Dead by Marina Lewycka (2012)
Serge Free – son, brother, and one of the lead characters in Marina Lewycka’s family-based comic novel Various Pets Alive & Dead – is working as a quant in an investment bank devising algorithmic trading strategies just as the financial crisis is kicking off. As if this is not complicated enough, he also has a lot of secrets.
His leftie parents in Doncaster think he is still finishing his maths PhD in Cambridge. Then there is his undeclared love for his colleague Maroushka. But after a drunken birthday dinner that ends up costing him £13,107.01, he is forced to keep a whole new series of secrets, including the fact that he is doing some freelance trading with his boss’s money.
Predictably, things go very wrong but, via some unexpected encounters and a case of concussion, his professional and personal life starts to change for the better.