Tuesday, July 9, 2013

"On the Floor"

Aifric Campbell spent thirteen years at Morgan Stanley, where she became the first woman managing director on the London trading floor. She left to earn a Ph.D. in creative writing at the University of East Anglia. Campbell’s writing has won awards from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, a Thayer Fellowship at the University of California at Los Angeles and writing residencies at Yaddo in New York.

She teaches at Imperial College, London and has previously taught at the University of East Anglia, University of Sussex.

Campbell applied the Page 69 Test to her novel On the Floor, and reported the following:
A hard-living investment banker has three days to decide her destiny: 28-year-old Geri Molloy has a rare mathematical gift that has made a huge success on the trading floor. On the surface she looks likes a woman in control of her future. In reality she remains in thrall to the three men who control her destiny: her ex lover, her boss and her reclusive hedge fund client who feed on her success. When she finds herself caught up in a high-stakes takeover, Geri’s life is plunged into chaos and she is heading towards a crisis that will alter the course of her life.

Page 69: It’s 07:29 on January 14 1991 and war in the Middle East is about to shake up the markets. Geri has just stepped into the morning meeting where management is briefing the trading floor on their strategy for war.
I stand up on tippy toes and peek over Al’s shoulder to see Zanna speed-scan the conference room but her professional half-smile includes the whole audience and doesn’t linger on me. Tucking her papers decisively under her arm, she touches the blue Herm├Ęs twist draped over her collarbone and takes a step towards the management huddle. I know she is desperate to have a word but I also know that she won’t be given the chance. This is a big day for big boys and heavy weapons and deep voices and the switch to a female frequency might just break the spell. The heavyweight cluster breaks apart and the Grope turns to survey the room, arranging his face into the shape of a beginning. The crowd babble fades to mute. We wait, all eyes on the Grope who nods to his right, ‘Go ahead, Dick.’

‘Well I can tell you one thing. We’re not expecting many sell orders in the oil market the next few days,’ the Head of Commodities breaks the surface tension with a bit of humour.

‘As you know, we’ve seen a steady decline from the $41 peak in October when Saddam threatened to start shooting missiles at Israel.’ He rattles through a retrospective chart summary of where crude prices have traded, tapping a finger on the lingering end point of the line as the screen fades into the dull heartbeat of GOLD.

‘Don’t expect a rally, guys. Except amongst the Swiss of course, who’ll be busy stockpiling in their underground bunkers.’ He grins to signal it’s time for another laugh, before assuring us that the only safe haven will be the dollar. This is a cue to the Head of Foreign Exchange and the screen fades to two charts marked $/YEN and $/DM, both dotting into an upward slope. I lower my head into a discreet yawn, so close to Al’s back that I have to be careful not to get lipstick on his shirt.
I spent 13 years on a trading floor at Morgan Stanley, so I really wanted to bring the reader right onto the trading floor and tell the story from inside the closed and very male world of high finance. This page is very typical of the way in which I write about the markets. But On the Floor is a story about love and money so although we see Geri’s world on this page, we don’t get much of a feel for her character. We do catch a glimpse of Zanna, her “most effective friend” and later in the book Geri will discover something important about their relationship. What really fuels this book is the story of a woman growing up and taking charge of her own life.
Learn more about the book and author at Aifric Campbell's website.

See Aifric Campbell's top 10 list of portrayals of working life in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue