I: Why did you choose this name of your thriller?
A: Once, my friend Igor, the retired intelligence officer, had heard at a meeting how someone gave a toast: FOR THOSE IN THE SHADE! He looked back and saw how the people whom he would never suspect as close to the Intelligence Service were reacting to this toast.
I: Are your heroes from the Intelligence Service?
A: Yes, but I do not write about it. The series of novels are based on my memories of a real person, Victor, a retired Foreign Intelligence Service officer. The time came that officers of the Foreign Intelligence Service held the post of vice president in the bank overnight. They had to forget about their lives as spies, and become bankers. A lot of them couldn’t do this. They understood nothing about finances. To see them in banks was funny. Gone are the days of espionage, blackmail and other things they used to do.
To name Victor a financial fraudster would be more precise. Along with many others officers, he lost his connections with the Foreign Intelligence Service, once those who from the Intelligence Service felt lost themselves.
In the time of the Soviet Union, Victor had been living in Europe, working in European banks. He knew how the European bank system worked. This was possible only for Intelligence Service officers.
I: Why don’t you write about the Intelligence Service?
A: I don’t write what I don’t know.
I: You say that you write about golden age of bankers, from 1998. What was special about those years?
A: In that time there was freedom. There was neither the police nor the intelligence services, or any crimes haven’t prevent the banks to make money. The bank board was rather independent. Now the chairman of the bank is more often the hired manager with a big salary. Now there is no such freedom. Banks are rigidly subordinated to the Central Bank and their owners, the largest corporations. There are no more beautiful financial gray schemes, as they were in those days.
I: Have you come across crime?
A: No. Maybe you have heard about Russia’s crime. But where the financiers were there was not crime. Banks were supervised by the Special Services and that’s why there was not crime. It was something akin to the redistribution of spheres of influence. Where pure money turned out in financial schemes, there was not crime.
By the time of Yeltsin’s decree in February 1996 the Foreign Intelligence Service was pumped up by money and officers came to the banks. The Intelligence Service began to be engaged in financial espionage. Also they began to gain power.
As to crime… Once I met a woman who had diamonds with an estimated value of 125 million dollars. She had received this jewelry, which was named ‘garbage collection’, from the appraiser of jewels. The appraiser had been connected with criminal authority Michailov, aka Mikhas. Before meeting her I thought that only a man who put on a white shirt and tie every day could commit such a fraud.
Now Russian crime has changed. Children of fathers who killed for primary capital become polite managers and lawyers. The same as in America.
I: Does a financial fraud also take place in the plot?
A: Yes, one of the most interesting frauds.
I: About which financial frauds do you write? Are they real?
A: Sort of. I do not write about high-profile scams. The repayment of public debt was the most beautiful fraud of 1998. A very beautiful scheme. But it has been written about. There was one more beautiful transaction. It was made by the Russian immigrant Arcady Gaydamak. It was named Angola gate. It has also been written about. And everyone knows about the Russian scandal with the Bank of New York. The IMF loan was transacted on foreign corresponding accounts. Those banks would have to transfer back rubles. But they paid it off with government bonds that were simply junk. The banks that made these transactions went bankrupt one by one, merging money through the BONY.
I write about frauds that can happen in a small bank. Such banks are called ‘pocket banks’. They serve the accounts of one rich client who owns the bank. Raiders attack the bank, bankrupting and withdrawing money from the bank, pumping up the bank with money, money laundering… Really, no one robs banks better than the bankers. It is the so-called ‘grey schemes’. Catching someone redhanded is very hard. Therefore in my novels there are no investigators or any investigations. Simply the big fish eats the small.
your swindlers unpunished?
A: Absolutely. To make a deal with G-men would just be silly. If someone falls into the hands of the State, he would not be convicted. To make an agreement is always possible. These are the rules of Russian game.
I: You say that your dialogue is realistic, and some things have been written down directly from digital records. In this novel as well?
A: Yes. The conversation with the owner of an airline in Guinea was included in the text just as it was on the recording. By the way, it was a woman who said it. She tried to deliver the aircraft in… no, not in Guinea.
I: FOR THOSE IN THE SHADE is your second thriller. Tell me a little about it.
A: Here are the same heroes, the same problems. But I think this novel is considerably different.
I: What is special in the thriller FOR THOSE IN THE SHADE?
A: I’m staying with Ilya. He is in his seventies. Between us is about thirty years. All the time I wonder why are we together? One day I met a friend of Ilya. He was not at all like Ilya. Still, they had a lot in common. We talk, drink vodka, go to Israel, and I understand everything that is happening to me. I understand what is holding me to Ilya. I do not believe in love without any reasons. I write this just as a hint, but it’s a terrible allusion.
To say that it is fiction would not be true. It is my interpretation of an interesting psychological theory. In this way it is the truth. This theory can explain a lot. It was written at the beginning of the century by Prof. Porshnev. This theory is about human origins. The first people ate their fellow tribesmen. Animals ran away from them quickly. I think everyone knows about it. It is assumed that their descendants live among us. Imperceptibly. They are more cruel, more arrogant, and imperious, and all of this. This theory asks the question: Why are we so different?
You will feel the truth of this theory after reading FOR THOSE IN THE SHADE, and you will look at people a little bit differently. I promise.