It is not just the fantasy of a writer to come up with the perfect crime, it is a mental puzzle I think that most people have thought about.
Thanks to the credit crunch, a lot of people have realised that there are plenty of perfect crimes and many are in the world of finance. I thought I’d make one of them the basis of my second book, The Twain Maxim
There are so many fraud in the mining industry it just beggars belief. Trying to find an honest small mining company is harder than finding a dodgy one.
This is not a new phenomenon, while it might seem plain weird that the world’s stock markets are jammed solid with mining scams, it has always been the case. Even as a child in the seventies I remember them, although I was perhaps a little precocious when it comes to share trading.
This ubiquity is where the title, The Twain Maxim, comes from.
Mark Twain said over 100 years ago, "a mine is a hole in the ground with a fool at the bottom and a crook at the top." It’s still true enough today
Before investing your money in a small mining outfit, it is still a good idea to think hard about the Twain Maxim. Little has changed.
The funny thing is, the narrative behind mining fraud is always the same.
Make a company with mineral rights in a place so remote no one will dream of visiting.
Float it on a stock market with claims of vast fashionable untapped mineral deposits.
Make a series of positive noises about imminent riches to push the stock price up
Cash in on the excitement in various devious ways
Whoops no luck, find nothing!
Price crashes down
Its as predictable as a Scooby Doo show.
The process has a similar structure to the Nigerian 419 scams we all get plagued with.
A trunk of cash at Lagos airport becomes, I have a mountain of Guano in Antarctica.
I need $10,000 to get the trunk out of the airport becomes I need $1m to buy a big bulldozer to dig out the bat poo.
Repeat requests for more money till victim exhausted
Sorry I’ve disappeared, becomes, sorry no Guano, mine closed.
Yet people fall for this time and time again under the noses of regulators all over the world. It’s shocking and would be comedic if people weren’t ruined by it.
As such, the novel is a pretty good course in avoiding investing in mining scams but there is a lot more to the story than that.
I’ve set it in Kivu on the Rwandan/DRC border which is incredibly rich in minerals. It is possibly the scariest place on earth. The more you look into it the worse it gets. Apart from having three of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world, it is suffering one of the most brutal civil wars on record.
It enough to say that the lake has enough carbon monoxide to gas 2 million people in it and that an earthquake could set it bubbling up and one of the volcanoes washed half of the capital city away in 2002, so a big earthquake is not unlikely. Yet beyond the geological awfulness of the place, the human misery of the civil war is far worse and the atrocities are fuelled by the militaries of Africa pillaging minerals. The horror of the situation is almost indescribable.
As such I hope the story throws a little light on what is a diabolical mess.
What I like to try to do when I write is combine a lot of elements that will make the reader go, "no way, that’s not real." Then if they do a bit of research they will find that it is real. I’ve knitted a lot of these topics into The Twain Maxim and i know it’s put the wind up a few advanced readers.
I wrote the book on a bit of a high from the critical reception for The Armageddon Trade, which at one point scraped the top 100 on Amazon. It pretty heady stuff to get an excellent half a page in the Daily Mail etc for your first novel. So I took that energy and ploughed it into The Twain Maxim.
I’m now a way into the third book, The Excalibur Trade, which is set in my old stomping grounds in Tokyo. It’s the same characters as The Twain Maxim and The Armageddon Trade and I’m enjoying developing them and filling out their personalities further.
If The Twain Maxim goes well, I think I’ll be well into book four by the time book three comes out, so I think this is going to be a five book series, if my luck holds and some shady mining promoters don’t pay me a visit.
The Twain Maxim is published by No Exit Press