Norb Vonnegut Author of The Trust and other "money porn"

The New York Times describes my novels as “money porn,” “a red-hot franchise,” and “glittery thrillers about fiscal malfeasance.” Through fiction I explore the dark side of money and focus on the motivations of those who have it, want more, and will steamroll anybody who gets in their way.

I wasn’t always an author. I spent most of my career in private wealth management with several brokerage firms, primarily Morgan Stanley, and with a registered investment adviser in New York City. Back then, I always thought the people of Wall Street and their clients—smart, goofy, hip, the complete spectrum from good to evil—would make great characters in a novel.

One thing I’ve learned: If a novelist can cook it up, chances are somebody is doing it. In December of 2007, I delivered the manuscript for Top Producer to St. Martin’s Press. My debut novel told the story of a Ponzi scheme in the public markets—which may not sound like a big deal in the aftermath of 2008. But I completed the book twelve months before Madoff unraveled.

More recently I wrote The Trust, a novel about drugs, money laundering, a sex superstore, and the Catholic Fund. A few months after its publication, a Catholic priest was indicted in Connecticut for cooking methamphetamine. And the press reported that he bought a sex shop to launder his drug money.

My stories have been nosing up to reality, long before the headlines make the press. The reason? Fiction is liberating. Novelists can advance theories about characters, no matter how crazy, without fearing the public embarrassment of being wrong. In my case, I’m probing people born from my real-life experience in the trenches of private wealth management. I’m straddling fact and fiction, which may explain why Top Producer and The Trust were predictive. And I sincerely hope The Gods of Greenwich never comes true.

Let’s see what happens with Masterpiece, the working title of my next novel. The idea for the book came from a question I couldn’t get out of my head: What would happen if the Director of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum received a package from an anonymous sender that contained one of the paintings taken in the great heist of March 18, 1990? With that, I was off and running. Who steals art? Why? Where do they hide it?

The hero of Masterpiece regards himself as a refugee from Wall Street. He left New York for a small town in New England, but he’s so good at his job, so completely trustworthy and rock-solid reliable, he keeps getting sucked back into the world he left behind. The story takes an irreverent look at the lives of families who depend on Wall Street. And, as in my previous novels, the stakes are deadly.

Other things to know about me: I write a column about private wealth management for the Wall Street Journal. My commentary addresses financial advisers. It’s opinionated. I don’t hold back. But it’s unbiased, because I’m not constrained by ties to Wall Street. If you’re evaluating your own financial advisers, I encourage you to take a look.

I graduated from Phillips Exeter in 1976, Harvard College in 1980 and earned an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1986. My family and I split our time between New York City and Narragansett, Rhode Island. I'm an avid cyclist and a Trustee with the American Foundation for the Blind. And I absolutely love books on tape.

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