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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Book Excerpt: The Oligarch

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,

In THE OLIGARCH: A THRILLER, the main threat to the Russian President's plan to destroy the oligarchs as a group is one particular oligarch, Maxim Blok. It is a fair to say that oligarchs are not generally nice people - many oligarchs might argue against this statement, some might even be the exception that proves the rule. But the truth is that they tend to aggressive, ruthless and, on occasion, even violent, and that is why they have got where they are. Blok is no exception. In the extract which follows we encounter him for the first time, seething in his office about the President's plans and determined to thwart them, and get a glimpse of his daughter who is destined to play a major role in the action: -

In the Yeltsin days, Maxim Blok had seized his chance in the new free-market environment and hoisted a financial colossus that jettisoned him high into the annual list of the world’s richest men. Proud of his wealth, he loved to flaunt his stretched limousine with tinted windows, his private Learjet, his spread-eagled mansion in Peredelkino, once the playground of Soviet moguls, and of course his vast yacht moored on the Riviera. It was his private boast that, while his business rival Abramovich may have bought himself Chelsea football club, the deck of his own yacht was big enough for the team to play on.

His study was on the ground floor of the mansion’s separate office wing. The lavish furnishings again attested to his power. The desk was a massive Edwardian mahogany and satinwood bowfront topped with embossed leather, acquired from a private dealer in London. On this rested a picture of a young dark-haired girl, framed in solid gold. The sofas and chairs were custom-made in Milan. An ornate antiquarian map of the Caucasus and a studio portrait of himself and his late wife hung from the oak-panelled walls. All this, though, was invisible to Blok now as, seated at his desk, he brooded over the Order, signed by President Karpev himself, handed over to him by special messenger earlier that day. It was final confirmation that he had ten days in which to surrender all his shares in Tyndersk Kombinat to the government. After that, he’d lose all control over its operations.

The tall poppy syndrome, Blok called it, the basic human instinct to chop down those who reached up and grabbed success. In this case, it was the men of action, the so-called oligarchs, who had led Russia out of her post-Perestroika economic desert. The President had made no secret of his view that Yeltsin had sold them the family silver far too cheaply, but until now he'd never dared to take them on. However, the global credit crunch had vastly increased public resentment of their excessive, dubiously-obtained wealth and played straight into his hands. Now, keen to salvage his popularity following the controversy of his third presidential election victory, Karpev had declared intention to bring enterprises like Tyndersk Kombinat back under State control so that the people, rather than a few individuals, could benefit from them. Now with the Order, the President had advanced to checkmate.

If the President's speed of action had taken him unawares, the traitor Ramaz spilling the beans to the journalist had the potential to prove catastrophic. Blok of course had been fully aware that Russian intelligence sources were monitoring the build-up of the separatists in his native Ingushetia. But now the authorities had been tipped off about where the money was coming from. Even with this knowledge, he was convinced Russia could not afford to make a pre-emptive strike against his native country, not after the universal outcry at its belligerence in the Ukraine and Georgia. Nevertheless the President had commissioned this Leksin, whoever he might be, to find the source of the funds in Tyndersk and cut them off. Under the circumstances Blok had no choice but to act fast.

Equally worrying, they had an informant in their midst. How else could Ramaz have discovered their plans? But who? Blok frowned as he ran through the possibilities in his mind, but none of them seemed likely. Yet one of them was guilty, and he needed to find out which and sort him out once and for all. Nothing was going to get in the way of independence for his beloved homeland. This had been his aim far too long to elude him now.

Blok's determined jaw jutted forward dangerously as he crushed the presidential order in his gnarled hand and hurled it into the bin. Then he turned his attention to the background material on this man, Leksin, that had been faxed across that afternoon. If anyone thought they could thwart him, they were sadly mistaken. And mistakes had to be paid for.

A resilient flower, the poppy. The more their heads were chopped off, the quicker they sprang back, tougher, prouder and more vigorously than before.


At an upstairs window in the main wing, the thick drape of the curtains remained drawn, shunning the feeble afternoon sun. Inside in darkness, a slender figure lay cocooned in a pale yellow silk quilt, her long dark hair spread over the soft down pillows. Anya Blok was a night-owl. Sure enough, as outside the light faded to dusk, she began to stir, pushing aside the quilt and stretching out for her lace-trimmed robe. Switching on the light, she waited for her eyes to focus. Her head felt cloudy, it had been a disturbed sleep with too many things going on in her mind. Pouring coffee from the insulated jug on her dressing-table, she sipped it slowly.

She spotted a handwritten note placed next to the jug and bristled. Another summons from her father to join him and a business guest for dinner. Sometimes she felt like a FabergĂ© egg, something decorative for her father to show off to his guests and then replace in the cabinet until next required. His antiquated Ingush attitudes constantly precluded her from doing something useful with her own life. A top graduate at Moscow University and probably the most successful ever President of its drama society, she wanted a job like all her friends. Even the chance to pursue an acting career would be better than nothing. Yet despite their endless arguments he wouldn’t let her, seeming to take an almost perverse pride in her endless, futile social whirl as if he perceived it as an expression of his own wealth. Deep inside, she knew she was frittering away her life, but what way out did she have? She released the note and watched it fall to the floor.

She glanced at the clock on her dressing-table. Nearly six o’clock. Time to start getting ready. With no enthusiasm, she went into the bathroom, turned on the shower and let her dressing-gown slip off her shoulders.

THE OLIGARCH: A THRILLER is available from Foyles, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all other major online book stores. Links to these stores can be found on the novel's website.

Synopsis: Following his controversial election for a third term amid widespread protests and allegations of vote rigging, the Russian President is determined to destroy the oligarchs before they destroy him. When the global economic meltdown decimates their wealth, the President seizes this chance to demolish their power base. His greatest opponent - Anton Blok, owner of the mighty Tyndersk Kombinat - has a secret agenda and faces far more than just financial ruin as his empire threatens to fall apart, and the President knows that his old enemy will stop at nothing to avoid catastrophe. With battlelines drawn, he turns to Alex Leksin, a business troubleshooter of Russian descent, to thwart Blok's plans. Against the challenge of hostile Arctic conditions, Leksin must tread a dangerous path through a labyrinth of corruption, terrorism and obfuscation until the exciting and unexpected denouement takes place in Russia’s northernmost seaport. Set in Moscow, Ingushetia (Chechnya’s neighbour), and Tyndersk, a Siberian mining town inside the Arctic Circle and geographically cut off from the rest of Russia, the plot twists and turns within an authentic and disturbing background.

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