“This was Core Communications, a $20 billion company linking mainframe computers worldwide via a high-speed network of low-altitude satellites, fiber-optic cable and dedicated connections to the Internet backbone.”
Get it? Robbie Case does. In fact, he’s the guy who got Core up and running. But his 5,000 dedicated employees aren’t always in on the big picture. And his investors don’t care about the big picture. They’re in it for the spectacular profits. Until the mainframes, the networks, the satellites, and the cables are shown for what they are: secret components in a super-duper shell game, thanks to Robbie Case the mastermind.
Sound familiar? It’s not a front-page story. It’s Shimmer (Unbridled Books), the first novel from Eric Barnes, and, as publisher of the Memphis Daily News and The Memphis News, Barnes knows only too well how his novel appears to have been ripped from today’s headlines. Think, though, yesterday’s headlines.
“I wrote the original draft of Shimmer back when the dot-coms were still going strong,” Barnes says. “The company I was working for was trying to raise venture capital in that environment. The venture capitalists always wanted the financial information presented a new way. And so ... my mind started thinking about how one could completely manipulate the information in the files. It was all fundamentally a matter of trust. And if you violated that trust, just by changing one number or another, who would know?
“I didn’t manipulate the numbers. Instead, I wrote Shimmer.” And it may be a matter of trust. But it’s also a study in corporate-size psychology.
According to Barnes, “Although the marketing of the book makes a big deal of it being a ‘corporate thriller,’ Shimmer is ultimately a book about the people who work at the company. People tell me it’s a page turner, which is great, but to me it’s a dark and sad book about the ethical, even moral, consequences of the choices the narrator is making.”
Ethics, morals, choices: They’re subjects Barnes isn’t done with. Look for them in his next book too.
“Yes, I’m finishing edits on a manuscript about a bankrupt bill collector hiding out in Alaska,” he says. “Apparently, I have a thing for lying narrators and financial malfeasance.” — Leonard Gill