Saturday, November 9, 2013

Lisa Black

Lisa Black spent the five happiest years of her life in a morgue. As a forensic scientist in the Cleveland coroner’s office she analyzed gunshot residue on hands and clothing, hairs, fibers, paint, glass, DNA, blood and many other forms of trace evidence, as well as crime scenes. Now she’s a certified latent print examiner and CSI for the Cape Coral Police Department. Her books have been translated into six languages. Evidence of Murder reached the New York Times mass market bestseller’s list.

The Price of Innocence is Black's latest novel featuring forensic scientist Theresa MacLean.

Late last month I asked the author about what she was reading. Black's reply:
Too Big To Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial Institutions--And Themselves, by Andrew Ross Sorkin

I may be writing this blog under false pretenses, because I’ve been reading this book since, I think, 2009--back when I had a publisher who sent me on book tours. Short book tours, and only within my home state, but Florida is long and spread out and it required a lot of driving, so books on tape helped the miles fall away. So I haven’t even been reading it, but listening to it. I no longer go on long book tours, but I do spend (as I had before) hours upon hours sitting in front of a computer screen looking at fingerprints, which is exactly as titillating as it sounds. But I recently discovered that I could download audiobooks from the library onto my phone--hence, I took up again with Too Big to Fail. I had left off between the Bear Stearns bailout and the Lehman Brothers fiasco, and now I’m up to where both Bank of America and Merrill Lynch are dashing about looking for help.

The fact that I’m reading (or listening) to this book at all would probably astound anyone who knows me, since I’ve never taken any interest in the business or financial worlds. Perhaps something about the aging process--with retirement looming in the not-distant-enough future--has made me more interested in money, a force as cold, indiscriminate, unpredictable and yet life-giving as the seas. Perhaps somewhere along the line I cottoned on to the fact that the tales of high industry can be as tempestuous and suspenseful as any murder yarn.

However, that doesn’t mean I can explain margin calls, overnight financing or why our economy ‘suddenly’ melted down. And I wouldn’t presume to, except to say that it wasn’t sudden, really, and probably resulted from a long series of missteps as well as the overall tendency of human beings to always push for more. In science that might mean we send a probe to Mars. In business, it means as soon as we saw off one financial limb, someone will find another to dash out on--because the money is just too good not to.

The personalities involved are each a story in themselves, of course. The image, it seems, of Wall Street brokers as utterly ruthless, driven SOBs who work 18 hour days and live to make money seems to be…largely true. They are ruthless to the point that when A describes B as a ‘really nice guy’ you assume that means that B is what the rest of the world describe as a first-class a-hole. Because everyone in their world is, so niceness is extremely relative. But that said, it is an egalitarian society. They don’t care about your resume, education, age, gender or race (not that the last two are necessarily equally represented there). Whether you graduated from Harvard cum laude or a dropped out of high school makes no difference to them. All that matters is, can you make money? If you can make money, you can stab people in the back, have a parent in jail, or call your boss any name in the book and they won’t fire you. Which makes complete sense--for example you could have a PhD in baseball, but if you can’t swing a bat you’re not going to get signed to a team. Because on the field, swinging a bat is all that matters.

At any rate, I recommend the book highly to anyone with a passing curiosity as to what happened to our national economy. Just be prepared for an investment of time, because it’s 640 pages. Or 21 hours, if you have long trip coming up.
Visit Lisa Black's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Price of Innocence.

--Marshal Zeringue