Ghosts of Manhattan: A Novel

If you enjoy Megyn Kelly’s assessments of daily events on Fox News, here’s another reason to appreciate the cable anchor: Her husband, Douglas Brunt, just penned a unique book that should appeal to readers of all sorts of political leanings.

It’s called Ghosts of Manhattan, and the author’s wryly comic, first-person debut novel offers a withering view of life on Wall Street from the perspective of an unhappy insider too hooked on the money to find a way out, even as his career is ruining his marriage and corroding his soul.

In other words, it tells the truth via the fictional medium…and in the end contains an important message for all of us.

It’s 2005. Nick Farmer is a 35-year-old bond trader with Bear Stearns clearing seven figures annually. The novelty of a work-related nightlife centering on liquor, hookers, and cocaine has long since worn thin, though Nick remains keenly addicted to his annual bonus. But the lifestyle is taking a toll on his marriage and on him.

Then a nerdy analyst approaches Farmer with apocalyptic predictions of where Bear’s high-flying mortgage-backed securities trading may lead, and Nick must deal with the kind of ethical dilemma he’s spent a lifetime avoiding.

Throw in an attractive financial journalist who seems more interested in Farmer than in the percolating financial Armageddon—as well as the prospect that his wife may have found a romantic interest of her own—and you have the recipe for Nick’s personal and professional implosion.

Here’s Kelly interviewing Brunt on Fox News about Ghosts of Manhattan:

The following is an excerpt from Part I:

And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.

—Friedrich Nietzsche

1 | Jerry Cavanaugh

November 15, 2005

I can’t stand other people half the time. I’m not a cynical person by nature, but sometimes if you look up, you realize everything around you has slowly been turning to crap. Time screws with everything, and thirteen years on the Bear Stearns trading floor selling corporate bonds can change a person.

There are few careers in life that require a person to be a genius. Business and politics are not among them. Selling bonds and bank debt for Bear is certainly not among them, but I’ve done it for more than a decade and made a lot of money. It’s a lifestyle I knew nothing about before I got here, and I try to keep a barrier between this life and all the people who knew me before. As if I were a CIA agent, other people know only my cover and nothing about how I actually live day to day. They know only that I work in finance and get paid very well.

“Farmer!” I ignore the yell. “Farmer!” Jerry Cavanaugh shouts again from over my left shoulder. Jerry runs the trading desk for the fixed income products we buy and sell every day. Bond issuances for casinos, airlines, shipping and transportation companies.

Stuff like that.

“Nick! Farmer!” It’s a thuggish, Staten Island accent, incongruous with a dress shirt, tie, and an annual bonus of three million dollars. I turn around with hands in the air and an expression as if to say I heard you the first time.

“Where are we on the Continental bonds? I want to be out of that position by the end of the day. What level can you get?”

“Ninety and a quarter for most of it. I’m waiting on a call back from Chappy.” We trade mostly distressed stuff. Companies that raised a lot of money, hit some hard times, and now the market wonders if they can pay it all back and service the debt. We factor in the risk that the company will fail to repay by making a market for the debt at less than the issued value.

Jerry scowls. “What do you mean, ‘most of it’?”

Says Brunt about his goals for the impact of Ghosts of Manhattan:

“I hope the book will help people to examine the choices that they make in their pursuit of happiness. It takes awareness and courage for a person like Nick or for any of us to make the kinds of changes we need to make.”

Check out more of Brunt breaking down the content of his debut novel in the informative video trailer below: