Energy traders duel for millions of dollars, playing a game as electrical and volatile as the resources they broker.
Best known for co-founding the short-lived literary noir magazine Murdaland, McMeel trades up from short stories to this debut novel. For his tale of financial excess and manipulation, the author delves into his career as a veteran commodity broker but fails to illuminate the arcane trade, despite his best efforts to ape hard-boiled heroes like Mamet. The book largely concerns a gang of young up-and-comers at Allied Power in Boston, whose job is to speculate on the future of energy sources, hoping—like any other commodity, be it stocks, property or sex—to buy low and sell high. McMeel’s window into this barren, mostly male-dominated world is Joe Gallagher, who has a gift for seeing future earnings that his peers can’t imagine. Not that his nascent career doesn’t carry an inherent amount of risk. “Predicting gas, oil, and electricity futures was an easy job when you happened to be right,” McMeel writes. “It was also easy when you were wrong: You got fired.” Soon Gallagher becomes a pawn in a scheme concocted by Milt Harkrader, a brawling, contentious broker with a plan to manipulate the Texas energy market for his own gain. Gallagher is meant to play ball with big-timer Randall Jennings, to create a “Short,” squeezing the market so Harkrader can sell a futures contract in the hope that the product plummets in value. Sound confusing? It is, although McMeel has a demonstrable gift for capturing the terse exchanges and excruciating tensions between his diamond-hard characters.
A timely but pungent dissection of American commerce.