Author Archives: Gary Goldstick

About Gary Goldstick

Gary Goldstick is a former Certified Management Consultant who specialized in formulating and implementing business and financial strategies to save failing businesses. He has put a lifetime of experience in the business world to use as the author of business thriller SAVING THE KARAMAZOVS.

Review: The Bottom Line

The Bottom Line, a business thriller by British author John Harman, was originally published in 1991 and recently re-released as an e-book. Of ten Kindle reviewers, seven gave it five stars. This is admittedly a small sample size, but I will add my review to the hat and give it three.

The theme of The Bottom Line is hijacked from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, namely, unrestrained ambition and hubris lead inevitably to failure and ignominy.

The Bottom Line by John HarmanRichard Hoecheck is a hard-driving, psychopathic CEO “who will stop at nothing to achieve his bottom line.” Two of his minions—the beautiful financial executive Madelene Weybourne, and the creative, conflicted, and reckless Tony Oldbidge, who are surreptitiously having an affair—are inadvertent, willing codependents of Hoecheck. They facilitate his schemes to amass assets under the umbrella of his large conglomerate, an investment staple of many middleclass and wealthy families. Hoecheck is achieving high shareholder value through nefarious means (including insider trading, blackmail, and murder) but Madelene and Tony are initially exhilarated by the job’s frenetic wheeling and dealing. As they gradually become aware of the criminal roots of their boss’s empire, they conspire to bring him down.

The novel is well written. Harmon’s development of both the major and minor characters is excellent. The backstories he creates for the characters along with the detail with which he paints their physical characteristics, tics, and idiosyncrasies bring them to life. His dissection of the various characters’ personalities to reveal the extent to which they are motivated by greed is truly masterful.

This otherwise excellent novel has four weaknesses, none of which should discourage a potential reader:

  1. The manner in which some of the major conflicts are resolved, as well as the dénouement, became apparent when I was only about a third of the way into the novel. As a result, the suspense was dissipated and much of my motivation for completing the novel is lost.
  2. One particular characteristic of Harmon’s style creates an interruption of the fictive dream. This is the grinding detail with which he describes the routes the characters take to get from where they are to where they want to be. If you are not familiar with the streets of London or the geography of England, these passages will be both useless and frustrating; I suggest you skip them.
  3. Late in the novel, when Tony is conspiring to rain on Hoecheck’s parade, he realizes that Hoecheck is on to him. Nevertheless, he continues to take reckless chances, acting as if he is bulletproof—which is not the behavior the reader would expect and is simply not plausible.
  4. Finally, I found the novel too long for the scope and complexity story being told. I think it would have packed a greater punch if it were about a third shorter.

An Exceptional Insight Into the Career of a Businessman


In the early 1970s I was struggling to keep alive the high-tech company I had founded in 1964. I also saw for the first time Save the Tiger, a film based on Steve Shagan’s novel of the same name, and immediately knew that I had discovered a soul mate—someone who had challenges and experiences similar to my own. The movie starred Jack Lemmon, who ultimately won an Oscar for his role as Harry Stoner, the struggling CEO of a manufacturer of women’s clothes.

save-the-tigerHaving survived for fifteen years, Harry and his partner Phil, an accountant, are in the final stages of bringing out a new line women’s dresses, and desperately need financing. They don’t have enough collateral to get the bank financing they need, so they are exploring other alternatives, including torching a warehouse that they own for the insurance proceeds. In addition to his financial challenges, preserving this “house of cards” requires him to (1) mediate the conflict between his creative designer, Rico, and his old Russian cutter, Meyer; (2) coordinate the liaison between a large buyer who expects to be “serviced,” and the prostitute he has on retainer; (3) cope with recurring PTSD episodes resulting from combat in World War II; and (4) prepare for the IRS’s audit of books that they both know have been cooked.

For me, what most impressed me about the story is the extent to which Shagan’s portrait of Harry Stoner is the small businessperson archetype, a character determined to keep a company alive at all costs, despite continual harassment. Driven to succeed, this character gets up every day, shoulders the responsibilities of the entire enterprise, and has to choose the “least worst” option from among unattractive alternatives. He or she dreams of the deal or season that will pay off and fund retirement, travel, and an easier life of charitable activities. Yet Harry knows that any hope of retirement is a fantasy.

One of my favorite scenes is the one that resonates with me most strongly. Here, at a meeting with Harry to resolve his conflicts with Rico, Meyer offers to resign:

Harry loosened his tie and unbuttoned his top button, “I don’t want you out.”

The old man moved around the table. “What do you want, Harry? Come on, tell me. I’m an old stone, I don’t talk. Tell me. What is it you want?”

Harry leaned over and picked up a small square of black faille. He thought about the old man’s question, looked up at the neon tubing and said, “More.”

“You mean money?”

“No . . .”


“Another season.”

The old man smiled. “And that’s everything? Another season?

“That’s right. It is. The average life in this business is seven months. We’ve survived for fifteen years—that’s something. Godammit, it’s everything.”

It’s eerie; I can remember making very similar statements on a number of occasions.

What makes Save the Tiger such a good read is:

  1. The characters are well drawn, especially Harry, Phil, Meyer, and Margo (the prostitute Harry has on retainer). Their actions are plausible.
  2. The setting—the Los Angles Garment District, Hollywood and Beverly Hills—is vividly described. You are there!
  3. The plot is very well developed. It grabs hold of you and won’t let you go.
  4. The story will evoke a feeling of recognition in any businessperson who reads it. You can’t help identifying with Harry.

For these reasons, Save the Tiger is an example of outstanding business fiction. I strongly recommend it.

Review: Love & Money

Love and MoneySince starting The Business Fiction Blog, I have made it a point to visit Powell’s City of Books on Burnside in Portland at least once a month, in order to search for Business Fiction Thrillers. Powell’s stacks their Thrillers in aisles 320 and 321, which consists of 48 four-foot shelves. Several very prolific authors dominate.

Robert Ludlum has four shelves, Tom Clancy – two and a half, John LeCarre and Ken Follett each have two. Michael Crichton has a few scattered in his shelf, (Disclosure, Mainframe); Joseph Finder (Paranoia, Company Man) and Steven W. Frey (Takeover, Day Trader) each have half a shelf. Many of the Thrillers are in the sub-genres of spies, military, politics and so on. Business Fiction Thrillers are in short supply.

It was on one of these monthly excursions that I discovered Love & Money. After I was halfway into it, I concluded that the novel was either improperly categorized by Powell’s reviewers, or perhaps it was dumped into the section by a customer who simply forgot  where it was originally located.

Michael M. Thomas’ Love & Money is very much about show business, the  marriage business and the legal business. As explained on the back cover, the media empire at risk in this novel–worth a billion dollars and thousands of jobs–all rests on the back of a TV star, Constance Grange.

Essentially what’s happening in Love & Money is that Grange, like many stars, promotes a large range of products. She is “America’s Mom.” Her character is very wholesome and relatable–everyone loves her. Connie’s business contract is somewhat dependent on her marriage contract. Her value as a brand is tied to her role as a wife and mother. The  contract includes a clause promising that she “will not engage in acts of moral turpitude or commit any act or thing that will tend to degrade her reputation.”  So, of course, the first thing she does in the novel is have an affair.

Connie’s husband,  the cuckold Clifford, was once a up-and-coming director, but has now found himself on “the permanent Hollywood shit list,” after failing to gracefully handle criticisms of his last film – which was an expensive flop.

Love & Money is split into two parts. In part one, everyone engages in risky and behavior and questionable decision making that jeopardizes their respective financial situations, i.e. having an affair, confiding in your employer about your affair and playing private detective to capture video evidence of said affair. You get the idea.

In part two, Clifford’s lawyer, Jekyll, manages to manipulate Clifford into agreeing toe be the “Doe” in a lawsuit. Jekyll wants to bring to challenge a change in the divorce laws in their home state, which (very theoretically) could enable Clifford  to extract a huge settlement from Constance or her employer.

In order to buy into the plot, the reader needs to believe that a) Jekyll, a highly successful divorce lawyer, would forgo hundreds of hours of lucrative billing for the “privilege” of potentially arguing a case before the Supreme Court, b) that Clifford would allow himself to be Doe in a high profile case, notwithstanding he is paranoid over the possibility that he (and Constance) might  be “outed” by a reporter, and  c) that Clifford, who harbors very strong impulses of revenge against Connie, and is desperately seeking financing to get back into the movie game, would ignore the potential of a proposed $100 million-plus settlement from Constance’s employer.

If you are able to continue to suspend your disbelief, not withstanding the plausibility issues identified above, and plough through to the end, you may achieve some level of satisfaction, which will be largely due to the author’s wit, writing ability and wide range of knowledge. I could not detect much of the suspense that one expects in a “thriller” and I found all the characters lacking in passion. They simply do not appear to care that much about what is happening around them.

In summary, Love & Money is a well-written, erudite, “drawing room comedy” that is much more reflective of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest than a current Business Thriller.

Review: Constructed

Constructed is a tongue-in-cheek romantic thriller about Sophie Berg, a Danish girlfriend of a South African gangster who is returning to Copenhagen to shake off her criminal ties and improve her social status. Stensure, a Danish social media company, publishes the social status metric she relies on. The conceit of the novel is that the social status of individuals, and of businesses, can be quantified, profitably marketed and will ultimately drive the behavior of subscribers.

Upon her arrival in Copenhagen, Sophie picks up a young man in a café who turns out to be the son of Stensure’s CEO, Steen Sand. They develop a romantic relationship. Shortly after Sophie’s gangster boyfriend arrives in Copenhagen, one of his thugs murders Steen’s son. Thereafter the trials and tribulations of Stensure, Steen and Sophie become entangled.

The senior management of Stensure consists of Steen and three other executives. They are the competent, hardworking and loyal executives one would expect to find in an emerging company. Mosfeldt’s keen insights into the challenges posed by a technology-based emerging business are demonstrated beautifully through the realistic handling of Stensure’s own critical issues: maintaining growth, coping with negative cash flow, dealing with recalcitrant bankers and reducing the workforce to conserve cash.

Meanwhile, Sophie’s character is well-drawn. Her motivations, fears, weaknesses, social and seductive capabilities are vividly illustrated. She is a sociopath who possesses excellent skills in deception and betrayal. Nonetheless, she briefly exhibits passion, guilt and remorse when she reveals to Steen her role in the death of his son and is willing to place herself at risk in order to wreak vengeance on her gangster lover. It is left up to the reader to discern whether Sophie is displaying genuine passion or simply playing a role in order to inveigle her way into Steen’s good graces in order to position herself for a job.

My only minor complaint is that Mosfeldt occasionally relies on Dicksonian coincidences to drive the plot. For example, when Sophie arrives in Copenhagen she needs legal help to set up a safe house for her gangster lover. The young man she selects at random and picks up turns out to be a lawyer having exactly the skills she needs to accomplish her objectives and he is happy to help her. Although I found the coincidence jarring, the pull of the story quickly overcame my critical propensities, and I immersed myself in the drama of the characters.

Final thoughts:  The plot is clever, and the style in which the story is told reminded me of Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller, North by Northwest–I enjoyed it thoroughly.