PAUL KILDUFF'S BOOKS
Know your Market
Emerges as a Frontrunner
|With the release of his
third novel, The Frontrunner, Merrill Lynch Vice-President, Paul
Kilduff, looks set to take the world by storm and emerge as one of
the best thriller writers of his generation. He talks to Fiona Shoop
about what makes him more than just another City-based writer.
Think of the financial markets and youll invariably either
yawn or remember the scenes of devastation when the World Trade
Centre collapsed. Paul Kilduff wants you to forget all that and, in
a fast-paced, multi-story, high-thrill novel, emerges as one of the
best new writers of his generation.
The Irishman has realised his potential. The Frontrunner is a
more complex book than The Dealer. Im trying to write a better
book each time and Im very conscious of not leaving any
dangling loose ends or unsolved storylines. So, every plot or
subplot I start, I would like to finish with a satisfying
conclusion. I wouldnt want to leave it halfway through the
book. Each character has issues and I try to make sure these issues
are developed and, ultimately, resolved.
This is not an easy task with so many important characters and
storylines running throughout the novel. Lesser writers would have
lost at least one of the threads but Kilduff is adept at juggling
and retaining control of a complex plot.
I do it on a one page Excel file. A sideways A4 page. I plot
down the left-hand side, say 30 chapters, and I have four scenes in
each chapter which gives me about 100 scenes. Each scene is 1,000
words. Thats the book done.
Basically, I write the scenes I think are right and I move
them around this template. On the right-hand side, I write a column
for each of the main six or seven characters whether theyre
in the chapter or not. Jonathon (the main character) is in each of
the chapters at the very start, whereas Lauren (the feisty
Frontrunner a term meaning to buy stock ahead of your
clients, thereby profiting from their buy) is not. I make sure
characters are in scenes and I develop them.
At the end of every book, I look at every, single character
whod appeared in the book whether theyre minor or
major and Ill make sure, in my mind, that every, single
character had something happen to them and where theyd end up.
The last press article, the last three to four pages of
the book, wraps up five or six of the main characters.
Whilst stockbroker Lauren is almost stereotypical in her
attractiveness (which Kilduff excuses as being typical, not of his
imagination, but the City itself), the au pair is not.
I think its easier with a female character to make her
appealing to men and to make her attractive. But the au pair is not
an attractive woman. I think you have to break the stereotype.
People at Jonathons work might think hes got a Swedish
nanny at home and shes 18 with long, blonde hair but I think
its quite important to break the mould and shes actually
a bit different, a bit of a battleaxe. Its easier to do it
with a nanny [than a stockbroker]. You cant imagine a
fifty-year-old saleswoman whos as tough as boots and who
competes with the men. Eva is not the only atypical character,
Jonathon has to juggle a high-flying career with raising two small
children after his wife died of cancer.
I think you have to have a character with whom people
empathise and who has some issues. Being a widower and having two
kids and conflicts makes the book more interesting. If the guy is a
very self-satisfied, smug consultant, then you dont really
bother about him that much but, if he has issues and a conflict
whether he goes to Hong Kong or takes his kids to the Millennium
Wheel on a Sunday morning then he knows which is the right
job to take. It makes the character more identifiable and people can
There is a fear that readers can identify too much with
contemporary thrillers if the events turn into reality. The
Frontrunner is set in several cities, including New York, in a world
about to face a global meltdown unless the main players can stop it.
With the events of September 11th and the on-going threat of a
world-wide recession, is Kilduff worried that the readers might not
want to read about their reality or would this encourage them
to buy the timely novel?
Its a global book, its about critical mass, about
a wide canvas where people are coming and going and meeting
different people and lots of events have an international, knock-on
effect. If you were an average punter in the world and that was
happening, you would find your savings disappearing, stock markets
collapsing, people queuing in banks to get their money because
things are going to the wall. People would be panicking.
When it comes out in paperback (in March), I think I might
take out one or two little mentions of the World Trade Centre so it
doesnt actually feature. By September 11th, the book was
already a done deal it had already gone to press. It could
have been worse, I could have written the main guy actually worked
in the World Trade Centre. Three Merrill Lynch people died there.
It is a worry when youre writing contemporary thrillers
that events overtake you. If, for example, the Chinese Premier had
died [as in the novel], the book would have been incredibly timely
or incredibly bad timing. Its a risk. This is a novel about
markets collapsing and its timely. I think people like that.
The Frontrunner is also a novel with humour and shows how far
Kilduff has developed as a writer. His desire to grow with each
novel will be seen with his ground-breaking fourth novel, the aptly
named Head-Hunter. Set in the City, it follows a recruitment advisor
and one of his clients. Its also Kilduffs first attempt
at writing about a serial killer.
If The Frontrunner will establish him firmly as one of the best
thriller writers of the century, The Head-Hunter promises to take
him beyond that.
Book Review: The Frontrunner,
Hodder & Stoughton (hbk £16.99)
A heady-paced thriller with interweaving plotlines and well-written
characters establishes Paul 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. The assassination
of the Chinese Premier and subsequent execution of his murderous
pensioner set a train of events into motion from the threatened
collapse of the world markets to the secret plot of the worlds
financial leaders to rescue the economy. Mix in some crooked deals
and heady sexual attraction, exotic locations and believable
characters and you have one of the best thrillers to be written in a
long time. Kilduff is possibly the best thriller writer this side of
the Atlantic and definitely the best Irish one ever. Its
only a matter of time before he conquers the US market and so
he should. The Frontrunner uses old-fashioned techniques of
characterisation, plot and pace to create a modern-day thriller and
profound warning against greed. Although, frontrunning does sound
like rather a nifty way to make money . . . Quite simply, a
first-rate novel from a first-rate writer.