Interview with thriller author Zach Abrams

My guest today is thriller
author Zach Abrams. He’s
chatting with me about his newest novel, a financial crime thriller/mystery,
titled Source: A Fast-Paced Financial
Crime Thriller.
Welcome, Zach. Please tell us a little bit about
Having the background of a
successful career in commerce and finance, I spent many years writing reports,
letters and presentations and it’s only fairly recently I started writing
novels. I’ve discovered it’s a more honorable type of fiction (but please don’t
tell the Inland Revenue I said that.)
I often refer to myself as
a reformed accountant and borderline alcoholic – reformed because I don’t practice
any longer and borderline as, while retaining my allegiance to my Scottish
heritage, I realize more practice makes perfect.

My first novel Ring Fenced was
published in November 2011. This psychological thriller is a crime story with a
difference, following one man’s obsession with power and control. He uses five
separate personae to independently control the different divisions of his life.

After this I collaborated with Elly Grant to produce Twists and Turns, a book of short stories ranging from flash
fiction to a novella, all having mystery, some horror and some more amusing.

My second novel, Made a Killing, is
the first book in my Alex Warren series. It follows the investigation after the
killing of a much hated criminal where an elephant tusk was used as the murder
weapon. This was followed by A Measure of
where Alex’s team seek the murderer of a CEO killed within the cask
room of his whisky distillery. The third, Written
to Death
, deals with a mysterious death during a writers’ group meeting. These
are fast moving, gripping, murder mystery novels set in the tough crime-ridden
streets of Glasgow.

My quirky thriller, Source: A Fast-Paced
Financial Crime Thriller
has three investigative journalists travelling
across the UK, Spain, and France as they research corruption and sabotage in
the banking sector while trying to cope with their own fraught personal lives.

All of my books can be
purchased from Amazon as e-books and paperbacks. Audiobook versions of both Ring Fenced and Made a Killing are now available and the other titles will follow.

Alike my central character in Ring Fenced,
Benjamin Short, I completed my education in Scotland and went on to a career in
accountancy, business and finance. Married with two children, I play no
instruments but have an eclectic taste in music, although not as obsessive as
Benjamin. Unlike Benjamin, I do not maintain mistresses, write pornography and
(sadly) I do not have ownership of such a company. I am not a sociopath (at
least by my own reckoning) and all versions of my life are aware of and freely
communicate with each other.

More in keeping with ‘Alex Warren’, I was raised in Glasgow and have spent many
years working in Central Scotland.

Please tell us about your current release.
The main theme follows an
investigation by three journalists looking into corruption and share
manipulation in the banking sector. Within this, the story looks into the
private life and private traumas of Tom, the main protagonist.

Effects of several incidents have rocked the
Royal National Bank to its core, causing its share price to tumble and world
stock markets to ripple. International economic stability is at risk. 
Tom is an accomplished journalist from London, and an unhappily married
workaholic seeking to advance his career. Sally is single, ambitious and
independent. Visiting from Australia, she’s chasing the same story. Eager to
research the alleged wrongdoings at RNB exposed by whistleblowers. Supported by
Ahmed, I young trainee, they become entwined in the investigation, and their
trail leads them from London to Glasgow, Manchester, Barcelona, and Collioure.

But they tread a dangerous path surrounded by cryptic warnings. Timing and
diversity of the events make it almost impossible for the events to be
coincidence or incompetence. They suspect someone has been powerful and
ingenious enough to mastermind the demise of the largest financial institution
in the world and set themselves to task to find out who and try to put a stop
to it.

What inspired you to write this book?
In my working life, I’ve
seen or been exposed to many different aspects of financial manipulation; added
to this are the regular news reports about improprieties in the commercial
I came up with the idea of
writing about an investigation into a scaled up version of these practices with
the potential of economic terrorism. The more I researched the idea, the more
aware I became of the potential reality.
Excerpt from Source: A Fast-Paced Financial Crime Thriller:
The figure standing in the doorway was the
embodiment of untidiness and bad taste. He was slight in stature, hardly any
taller than Sally but this was pronounced because of his stoop and puny rounded
shoulders. His narrow, pinched face was disguised behind two or three days of
growth and his upper head was shrouded by greasy, straggly, straight hair
which, at the back, extended to his shoulders. To say he was dressed would be
misleading but his body was covered by clothing. A green-coloured, chequered
shirt struggled to contain his large belly and it was tucked into his maroon
jeans at one side only, the other was flapping freely when he moved. His
apparel still bore evidence of the runny egg he’d had for breakfast, hopefully
from that same morning.
“I’m Charlie McMillan, you wanted to see me?”
‘Speak to you maybe, but I’d have sooner not
seen you,’ was Sally’s immediate thought, but in the interests of making
progress, she restrained herself from vocalising it. The contrast to Ahmed’s
pristine appearance couldn’t have been more pronounced and even Tom’s
dishevelled presentation on arrival at Euston that morning was immaculate by
comparison. Sally had often heard of tabloids being referred to as ‘gutter
press’ and she thought the term must have been coined with Charlie in mind.
“Grab a coffee and join us,” Tom said.
“I’ll pass on the coffee, “I can’t stand the
sludge out of that machine. You need to go to the café across the road if you
want something drinkable. I’ve brought my own with me if you don’t mind?” He
produced a bottle of Highland Spring. Sally wrestled with the concept of
Charlie being a coffee connoisseur and suspected the bottled water may have
contained some alcoholic additive.
“I gather you’re up from the smoke to follow up
on some work I’ve done. What’s this all about?” Charlie continued. There were
no pleasantries or introductions.
“Well not exactly,” Tom replied. “We’re working
some research on large and unusual stock market movements, trying to see if we
might have the basis for a story.”
“Good for you, you get the luxury of being able
to take your time and research your stories. We’re at the sharp end here. We
pick up on something, check its authenticity and then either print it or drop
it. We don’t have the time to chew things over.”
“It’s no picnic for us either,” Tom said. “True
we may have a bit more time, but we’re expected to produce results and we have
to meet deadlines too.”
Looking at Charlie’s stained clothing, Sally
stifled a giggle at the picnic analogy.
“So what do you want me for? I’ve not much time
and I need to make deadlines on a daily basis.” Charlie’s hostility was almost
“Okay, we’ve all got the same problems, the
same objectives and the same bosses, so we’d really appreciate any help and
cooperation you can give us. We’ve been looking into some odd things happening
at Royal National and your story last week on the insurance claims contributed
to it. We need to learn more about the background,” Tom asked.
“What background? I learned about what was
happening there, I checked it out and cleared it with legal department and then
it ran. That’s all there was to it.”
“Come on, you’re doing yourself a disservice
there. I know this is only a regional tabloid, but…”
“You can get off your high horse right now.
We’re not a regional tabloid, we’re a national. Scotland is its own country and
besides, we have a worldwide readership with online subscribers. Our
circulation is higher than many of the broadsheets. The last time I checked it
was double what your rag gets and we’re a daily when your mag is a weekly, so
go do the maths. And yeah, our articles may not be too high-brow, our reporting
on Europe, on immigration and on the English for that matter may be a whisker
within the anti-racial discrimination laws. We might concentrate on celebrities
and royals and football. We may alternate medical headlines between telling our
readers that alcohol or cigarettes or the latest super-food either kills you
with cancer and heart disease or is the latest wonder cure for it, but we give
the punters what they want. That’s why they shell out their dosh six days a
week.” Charlie paused only long enough to draw breath. “I chose this line of
work; it was a lifestyle choice. I used to do what you do. I have my Fleet
Street credentials, I have a first class honours degree to go with it and I
read at Oxford, but I couldn’t stand the backstabbing and the travel and the
pretension, so I moved back to Glasgow and now I’ve got quite a cushy number. I
earn well, I live the way I like and so what if I have to wear this uniform?”
Charlie took a moment to run his hand over his chest smoothing out some of the
creases on his shirt. “Dressed like this, I can walk into any pub and pick up
on the latest gossip. I can always change first if I have a more important
meeting, so I don’t get chucked out of the Hilton. Mind you they know me well
enough in there anyhow. So what makes you so big and important? Where did you
“I took English literature at Cambridge,” Tom
replied, almost in a whisper.
“Ah, Fens Polytechnic, so now that we’ve set
the ground rules, what do you want to know?”
Ahmed barely managed to contain a snigger and
Sally fought to keep from gaping in amazement. Charlie’s slight frame had
seemed to take on a new stature. Tom’s facial reaction was less controlled as
he struggled to find words.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you or your
newspaper. My mind’s been so focussed on what I’m trying to do that I didn’t
think through what I was saying. I suppose it must have come across that I was
really up myself. Can we turn the clock back and start again please?”
There followed a long pause, while Charlie’s
intense glare all but bored a hole through Tom, then he howled with laughter
and blurted, “Christ, you Sassenachs are really easy to wind up. It’s the best
sport I’ve had for some time,” before offering his hand.
Ahmed immediately joined in, but it took a few
seconds before Tom recovered enough to participate and even then he seemed
shaken and unsettled.
“Now what can I do for you?”
“Well, as I was saying before, we’re hoping to
find any information which can help explain the problems Royal National have
been having. From what I’ve seen, every time they start to recover from one
problem or revelation then they’re hit with another. It’s all too much of a
coincidence and we’re wanting to see if there’s any pattern.”
“So you’re hoping I can give you my source, so
you can follow it up?”
“Exactly,” Sally intervened. Now that
hostilities seemed to be over, she was eager to participate in the dialogue.
“No can do, it’s not that I’m unwilling to
help, but I don’t have a source, at least not one that I know.”
What exciting story are you working on next?
I’ve started working on
the fourth book of my Alex Warren, murder mystery series. These are tartan
noir, crime thrillers set in my home town of Glasgow, Scotland. This one
centers on the murder of a young Asian woman (of Islamic upbringing), who had
been married to a Scots boy (from a Protestant family). Besides all the normal
lines of enquiry, Alex’s team has to investigate the potential of racial
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Writing has always played
a key part of my working life in the fields of accountancy, finance and
business consultancy. However, I only started writing fiction (as opposed to
embellishment) in the last six years.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work day
like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to
Although I do not have a 9
to 5 job, I continue to have other business interests which means I have to fit
writing into a busy schedule. However, this means when an idea comes in to my
head, I have to at least make notes or better still take time to expand on my
idea. Inevitably this often happens in the middle of the night.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I am fortunate that I’m
not easily distracted while writing and I usually like to have music playing in
the background. I often sit to write in the same room as my wife while she
watches television.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Older. As a child I always
wanted to be older so that I was beyond the restrictions of the age I was. Of
course, once I became older, I started to yearn for the freedom from
responsibility I had when younger. An archetypal case of the ‘the grass is
always greener…’
Anything additional you want to share with the
I now live in Scotland but
spend large parts of each year in the South of France where the weather is so
much better and life is more relaxed and more conducive to writing.
Thanks for being here today, Zach!

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