Book Review: All The Evil Of This World

(Review of financial writer Jared Dillian's second book)


A pleasurable sprint down pseudo-memory lane — back to a market which inconceivably was even more manic than the current age of the Unicorn, courtesy of Jared Dillian, the author of an autobiographical ”you are there” chronicle about 2008/09 and the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Street Freak.

We are treated to a kind of prequel to Street Freak but this time it’s a fictional, electric, very baudy and inside-baseball account of a single stock options trade order in one of the biggest deals of its time, 3Com’s spinoff of Palm Computer on March 2, 2000.

Younger traders might be confused by the absence of iPhones and the prominence of Internet search engines whose names do not begin with a “G” but they will recognize some of the personalities in this book — please indulge me and put it on your wish list and then get it.

We have seen movies where there was a “macguffin”, which as defined by Wikipedia is: “In fiction, a MacGuffin (sometimes McGuffin or maguffin) is a plot device in the form of some goal, desired object, or other motivator that the protagonist pursues, often with little or no narrative explanation.” In a way, the securities trade order for the 3Com Palm spinoff serves as the plot device and our attention is drawn towards 7 people involved in the trade. No, in the parlance of movies and television, this is not a “procedural” for stock jockeys, this is most definitely an all character driven creation, with a few twists. In fact, readers will soon enough discover this book is a nested doll made up of human imperfections most of us can relate to all too well. Read it once and you’ll see and then re-read it and you see more.

In each chapter we are introduced to characters who are not saintly but to call them “evil” would burden some realistically flawed people with unfair caricatures, as each player’s backstory (and humanity) is revealed, in seven unique, hilarious and unsentimental first person voices. We are a captive audience of these people as each of them in succession, thanks to both their abilities and frailties, unwittingly stir up a tempest in a market teapot — with most (but not all of them) oblivious to the sea change about to hit Dot.com 1.0. They each do their jobs, some with the hunger of youth and others a bit more world weary but too scared to change, chase what they think they want, and wrestle with a mass of unresolved issues and insecurities. All seven people are unique and genuine characters BUT the one thing they have in common is that they each seek escape and release (in so so many ways) from the incarceration of their lives — if only, if only they could make enough money, get the promotion, get someone’s approval, meet the right person, not screw up the order and so on.

The book’s title, using the phrase “All The Evil” seems to be a play on the phrase about money as the root of all evil. Dillian doesn’t refer to this openly — this is my own inference. What is referred to openly: Good things happen to “bad” people and bad things happen to “good” people and I was reminded of this as I rode along with this one trade order of a read, and dived through the “nested doll” of this book. The connecting thread in the book is that a bunch of smart and hard-working, hustling and very vulnerable folks are all feeling the need to escape, even if they, their lives or their “book” are objects of envy or desire for someone else.

The chorus line dancing to the market’s rhythm in this wild, relentless narrative: the young up-and-coming clerk who looks like a gym-rat but can do serious math in one of his two “heads” (but sadly not both), a “wash-out” trying to live down fleeing a past “failure” and live up to his chosen brand of “success”, a smooth-talking-mile-a-second operator of people (and refugee from a painful past) who just-just-just needs to keep going, a “seen-too-much” IB veteran who seeks release and can delay gratification like nobody’s business, another young smart up and coming math wiz whose challenge isn’t testosterone but having to deal with an over-abundance of it all around, a “poor” rich trader who is confronting true “poverty” in life and lastly the client, a cipher for one of the truly “big picture” questions about markets and life.

Hopefully I haven’t spoiled your interest, this was one hell of a good read.

It begins and ends with a blow to the head, backwards and forwards, and you’ll be left buzzed just like some of the characters.

Jared Dillian’s Amazon Page


Originally published at www.rooster360.com on March 19, 2016.