THRILLER

Stephen Frey's day job may be as a managing director at ([A-z]+)-based private equity firm Winston Partners, but in his spare time he earns money in another way: penning financial suspense novels.

His latest book, Shadow Account, follows the adventures of investment banker Conner Ashby who, after accidentally receiving an e-mail containing details of major corporate fraud, finds his life in grave danger. Ashby reads the e-mail while in bed with his naked girlfriend. Before he knows it a gunman enters the room, killing his love interest and sending him out the window and on the run.

Frey's writing career took off with The Takeover back in 1995. The 44-year-old has authored nine financial thrillers so far, all following the same formula of “implausible situations, lucky coincidences, untied threads,” according to one reviewer. An economics major, Frey says his literary impulse came to him during a cross-country road trip with a former college roommate, who was an English major.

Frey says his career has given him ample source material for his elaborate plots. Prior to Winston, Frey worked in New York at the corporate finance arm of German commercial bank Westdeutsche Landesbank. He has also held corporate finance positions at Société Générale and JP Morgan's M&A advisory group.

“There's some exaggeration [in the stories],” Frey allows, “but you get to see some interesting stuff, especially with smaller companies. These entrepreneurs build things from the ground up, and they don't always do it by the book.”

Frey's next oeuvre, The Chairman, which will be published by Ballantine Books, will for the first time delve into the realms of private equity, a world he knows well. Frey, in fact, has signed a contract with his publisher for a series of private equity thrillers, which will follow the trials and tribulations of a young hot shot who takes the reins at a New York-based buyout firm.

As Frey points out, private equity's billion-dollar deals and carry-hungry general partners provide a good platform for ideas. And, one might add, you get to meet interesting role models for colourful fictitious characters: considering that Frey's firm Winston Partners was founded by Marvin Bush, president George W. Bush's brother, one can't help but wonder how closely his fiction at times mirrors reality.