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Fact to fiction — financial reporter writes Wall Street thriller

Brooklyn Daily

After 25-years of hard facts, a little fiction goes a long way.

During his long tenure as the chief business columnist and an associate editor at the Financial Times, Park Slope resident John Gapper has rubbed shoulders with more than a few Wall Street big wigs, and he’s poured all those years of hands-on experience into his new book, “A Fatal Debt” — a heart-stopping thriller set in the fast-paced world of Manhattan’s Financial District — hitting store shelves on June 26.

“It’s kind of based on the world of Wall Street that I know,” said Gapper, “and my characters, while not based on anybody in particular, are a mix-up of that world.”

The book stars Ben Cowper, an attending psychiatrist at the hoity-toity New York-Episcopal Hospital who is flabbergasted to discover that his most recent emergency patient is Harry Shapiro, a titan of Wall Street and one of the hospital’s most generous donors. However, a turn of events has left Shapiro unemployed and disgraced, and his wife discovers him, pistol in hand, during what she can only assume is a suicide attempt. When news breaks that there’s been a murder in Shapiro’s Hamptons mansion, the victim is the last person Cowper expected.

Like any good journalist, Gapper did plenty of research to get the feel for his characters and, much to his surprise, he found that people are much less tight lipped when their names aren’t going into print.

“I’ve done quite a lot of research, I spoke with bankers and the wives of bankers, and to a few psychiatrists,” he said. “But when people know you’re writing fiction and that they will not be brought up specifically, they tend to open up more,” said Gapper.

One thing the author admits was difficult in his first foray into fiction wasn’t nailing down the feel of Wall Street culture and the figures surrounding it, but filling in the story gaps with his own imagination — a trait typically suppressed in the field of journalism.

I’ve been a journalist for a long time, so that I know how to do,” said Gapper. “Fiction I found very, very different. The research bit of it I did rather like a proper journalist, that bit all felt very normal, but actually writing and trying to imagine stuff, I found completely weird.”

With Gapper’s first novel out of the way, it’s unclear whether he’ll return to the world of fiction. One thing, however, is for certain — no more bankers.

“I think I’ve had enough of bankers,” he said. “I might try novel writing again and see whether or not I can make it work, but I think in terms of fiction, you can get tire of bankers rather quickly.”

Fatal Debt Release Party and Book Signing at Book Court [163 Court St. between Pacific and Amity streets in Cobble Hill. (718) 875–3677. www.bookcourt.org] June 27, 7 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Colin MIxson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.

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