Scene of the Crime: Peter Spiegelman & Wall Street

Today we begin a new monthly series, Scene Of The Crime, where authors discuss the locations they write about. Peter Spiegelman’s PI John March works cases involving Wall Street. Spiegelman, who worked as a software designer for many Wall Street businesses, also edited one of the best Akashic anthologies, Wall Street Noir, proving the reach of the street.

MYSTERYPEOPLE: What makes Wall Street a place to return to for your fiction?

PETER SPIEGELMAN: I worked on and around Wall Street for twenty-plus years, and I have friends and family who still work there, so it’s a place I know well. It’s also a place where wrongdoing has often been a part of the landscape—which makes it fertile ground for crime fiction.

MP: What makes it a unique location for you?

PS: From my first day there, it was apparent to me that Wall Street is quite a noir-ish place. Though the trappings are different, a trading floor has more than a few things in common with a casino or a racetrack. You can find compulsive risk-takers there, and people who measure their own self-worth by their latest gains or losses. There is arrogance, desperation, self-deception and self-destruction at work, along with short fuses and big egos, so it makes a great laboratory for anyone interested in how people behave under pressure—what they will and won’t do, where they draw (or don’t draw) the line.

MP: How does it inform your hero?

PS: Wall Street is a world John March knows intimately (he’s the black sheep son of a family of investment bankers)—a world he grew up in, but that he ultimately turned his back on. Now he’s an “outside insider” – someone who knows about the skeletons in the closet, and where the bodies are buried. He maintains a reflexive skepticism about Wall Street, isn’t intimidated or awestruck by big money, and isn’t misled by nonsense wrapped in jargon.

MP: What is the biggest misconception about the place?

PS: From the long, sad history of crime on Wall Street, it’s easy to believe that the industry is made up exclusively of Gordon Gekkos or Bernie Madoffs or seedy boiler-room types pushing sub-prime mortgages, or slicker Ivy League types pushing toxic derivatives. But that’s far from the whole story. The vast majority of people employed there are hardworking folks who are not paid extravagant sums, and who are no less honest than people in any other industry.

MP: What did you enjoy most about working there?

PS: I had a chance to do some interesting, very challenging work there, and to do it with some very smart people. But the best part, by far, of working on Wall Street was meeting my wife there.

Peter will be calling into our Hard Word Book Club September 26th at 7pm, for our discussion of his first John March book, Black Maps.

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