|Chris Malburg, Author|
Chris Malburg has authored GOD’S BANKER, described by a reviewer as a book with “All the elements - drama, mystery, action, thriller.” GOD’S BANKER is the second in the Enforcement Division series with protagonist Jackson Schilling, special SEC Enforcement Division and former Navy Seal. In GOD’S BANKER, he investigates what Malburg describes as the most secret bank in the world, the Vatican, and an attempt to murder the Pope.
Malburg leads a dual life. He is an author of thrillers and also an expert in corporate finance, a background that he exploits in his novels about an SEC investigator. He has published 11 books on finance and the first book in the Enforcement Division series, DEADLY ACCELERATION. He lives in Southern California with his wife, and they raise service dogs for the disabled.
Q: How did you conceive of the plot for GOD’S BANKER? What triggered the idea of writing a thriller involving the Pope and the Vatican’s money? Are you a Dan Brown fan? A reviewer said, “To me this book is up there with Dan Brown’s best.”
Chris Malburg: I’ve had a life-long interest in the Vatican Bank. It’s the longest standing, most secretive institution of its kind. I wanted to explore how one group of corrupt zealots might use it to create a global conspiracy that unseats the entire Roman Catholic Church. As for the Pope—he was a natural character since he’s the target institution’s CEO. Author, Dan Brown, has led the way in using the mysterious church as a backstory, creating a dark undercurrent of all-powerful and deadly corruption. I just kicked it up a notch with GOD’S BANKER.
Q: How accurate is the back-story associated with the Vatican and “the most secret bank in history?” How did you track down information about it? Was your background as a CPA/MBA, former investment banker, and financial consultant helpful?
Chris Malburg: The best lies begin with a grain of truth. That’s what I started with in creating the background of the Vatican Bank. Most everything in GOD’S BANKER about the bank carries that grain of truth. However, I seriously doubt such an institution could or would ever survive the rigors of a public stock offering. There’s a lot of information out there about both the Vatican Bank and the Roman Catholic Church. However, I imagine much of it has taken huge liberties with the truth over the centuries. That didn’t hamper my research—afterall, GOD’S BANKER is a work of fiction.
As far as using my financial professional’s background—absolutely that helped in writing the book. In fact, I don’t see how someone without that experience could have created such a credible scenario of taking over Vatican Bank. Still, keep in mind, it is definitely a work of fiction—highly credible in places, but at the end of the day, still untrue.
Q: One of your reviewers said, “Jack Schilling is an amazing hero.” What makes him amazing? Why do readers care about him?
Chris Malburg: My readers have developed a relationship with Jackson Schilling over the two books in the Enforcement Division series—DEADLY ACCELERATION and now, GOD’S BANKER. Schilling is consistent throughout and true to the values of patriotism, justice, faith in himself and his teammates as well as his profession. He is extraordinarily competent, from the training of his early days as a Navy SEAL and later in the SEC’s Enforcement Division. Jackson carries none of the swagger and self-righteousness that some authors give their lead characters. Instead he is humble and focused on his people and his objective. In my interviews with those having such a background in real life, every one of them is that way—me included. I have had the privilege of spending time with men having Schilling’s background—they are the best of the best. Knowing them is quite an experience.
Q: What do you consider to be the characteristics of a great villain?
Chris Malburg: Great villains are tough to create. I think, for me, that’s because I have no frame of reference for people who would do such awful things as shown in GOD’S BANKER. But I’m a fast learner. What helps me most is to think of how I would react in that situation, then do exactly the opposite and ramp it up to inflict the most pain and misery.
A good villain cannot be all bad. That’s certainly the case with Cardinal David Caneman—the villain in GOD’S BANKER. He’s a brilliant financial engineer. Through his efforts, Vatican Bank has risen to become one of the world’s most significant financial institutions. Because of him, millions of dollars have been spent on the poor and downtrodden. Problem is, Caneman has a couple hundred billion at his disposal that he is not spending on the poor. He has diverted it to his own dark and less worthy purposes. He is also totally without a moral compass of any sort. The depth of his deception comes out the more readers see how he has colluded with and duped literally every person who has helped him rise to his seat of power in the Vatican Bank.
Q: How do you create the suspense that entices readers to turn the pages faster and faster—per your reviewers?
Chris Malburg: For both DEADLY ACCELERATION and GOD’S BANKER I’ve tried to create a seduction that begins slowly at first and gathers momentum as the book proceeds—it’s similar to making love. I believe that readers want to get to know the characters and their circumstances at first. That’s the reason for the prolog, then the sniper scene that both precede the initial introduction of Jackson Schilling. Only by allowing readers to know the characters and care about what happens to them are they going to turn the next page and the next.
As far as turning pages faster—that’s a writer’s technique. As the action proceeds toward the end, have you ever noticed the chapters become shorter and shorter, the sentences as well? This picks up the pace of the action. You have to turn the pages faster to find out what happens next. If I see my readers turning the pages faster, then I know I’ve done my job of entertaining.
Q: A reviewer likes the humor associated with the Pope and Sister Mary Pat. How helpful is humor to telling your story? How do you mix suspense with humor without losing momentum?
Chris Malburg: These are great questions. Thank you. Humor is something that I think helps make the book that much more entertaining. As I writer, I want to give my readers a breather every so often. I use the often-humorous relationship between the Pope and his good friend, Sister Mary Pat. How often in real life would you imagine a nun actually gets to tell the Pope:
“Oh wow,” said Mary Pat in a mocking tone. “Now that’s impressive. We’re up against four times the armed men, ground penetrating radar and—”
This would not happen in real life. Yet the banter between these two loyal friends gives a welcome break in the action and lets you see the two characters as you would like to imagine them.
Q: Did you write GOD’S BANKER to deliver a message or just to tell a thrilling story?
Chris Malburg: GOD'S BANKER is a story I wrote with just one purpose—to entertain. If people wish to draw a deeper meaning and take away a message that resonates with them, I am thrilled.
The funny thing is though, lately several readers have sent me religious books. GOD’S BANKER is definitely not religious in nature. There’s no Godly message that I know of. I guess after reading the book they must think I could use a little religion.
Q: How do you make your books credible? What draws us readers into your fictional story? It is fiction, isn’t it?!
Chris Malburg: I work really hard at establishing credibility with my readers right from the beginning of the story. I do this by incorporating as many real facts as possible, then allow the fictional aspects to revolve around them. Remember that grain of truth? Once I have the reader’s trust, I try never to lose it by making a silly mistake.
There’s a scene where Schilling is shot and his partner, Smitty, needs to perform emergency surgery. I researched the medical journals and emergency manuals. I wrote the scene as best I could and had it reviewed by an ER doctor. Still, I received an email from a real physician complaining about the count of bandages Smitty used. However, he did go on to say that my error did not diminish his appreciation of the book.
Q: What’s next? Will you write another Jack Schilling thriller?
Chris Malburg: I have two more book projects currently in development. And no, I am not yet finished with Jackson Schilling. If he’s up for a few more adventures, so am I. Actually, I’m getting some teens and young adults as readers. I don’t have any kids so this is new to me. These young readers are extraordinarily intelligent and savvy. So the next Enforcement Division book features two teens and is written to also entertain the young adults in our midst.
Additionally, I’ve recently seen a microcosm of uber-wealthy society that keeps women—for sex at first, for companionship occasionally but for ego and appearances most definitely. This book will explore that society from the woman’s point of view. It will be fun, entertaining and offers a glimpse into an aspect of society few ever get to see.
Q: Tell us about Chris Malburg. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Chris Malburg: I’m not a born writer. But I became one as soon as I could. My background is in corporate finance. That’s definitely where I learned to use multinational corporations as the weapons DEADLY ACCELERATION and GOD’S BANKER. I’m happily married, live on the coast in Southern California, and am an endurance athlete—a long distance cyclist. My hobby is raising service dogs for the disabled. In fact, both of my novels feature these two beautiful, intelligent Labrador retrievers, Carrie (left) and Dove. Both are former service dogs.
About Chris Malburg
Chris Malburg is a widely published author, with work spread over 11 popular business books--including How to Fire Your Boss (Berkley) and Surviving the Bond Bear Market (Wiley, March 2011). In his other life, Chris is a CPA/MBA, a former investment banker and now the CEO of Writers Resource Group, Inc., providers of professional financial literary content to corporations (www.WritersResourceGroup.com). That’s the professional side of Chris’ career. The fun side began when UCLA’s Writers’ school taught him to transition from biz-speak to fiction. GOD’S BANKER and the first installment in the Enforcement Division series, DEADLY ACCELERATION, both combine Chris’ natural talent for story telling with his professional command of the high-stakes investment world and what money and power do to some people.
GOD’S BANKER came to fruition from Chris’ hospital bed while recuperating from an athletic injury. As a long-time endurance athlete, Chris is no stranger to the surgeon’s scalpel. Over 130,000 words later, GOD’S BANKER was complete. “It just poured out me,” says the author. “I carried my note pad to physical therapy; made plot notes during the hours in the gym doing rehab; even while on my long bicycle rides through the hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean where we live. Slowly endurance returned and with it, GOD’S BANKER.”
Chris Malburg lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Marilyn. Their hobby is raising service dogs for Guide Dogs for the Blind. As of this writing, they have raised eight Labrador retrievers and have had three make the cut for placement with their disabled partners.
About GOD’S BANKER
Jackson Schilling must stop a deadly plot to murder the Pope and take over the largest institution of its kind. Then comes the hard part: Derail a fundamentalist faction led by Cardinal David Caneman—a man who over a billion faithful would call a saint. Jackson Schilling battles a force growing faster and more deadly than the Crusades or the Taliban. If Schilling fails, governments will surely topple before Caneman and his band of fundamentalists.
Excerpt GOD’S BANKER
The President watched the young man brace his plastered leg and struggle to pass one crutch into his left hand. The President took half a step forward to offer assistance. Then he saw the look of defiance in the young lieutenant’s eyes. It said as loudly as if he had spoken the words, I will not succumb to this injury. The President knew the look; shared the same defiant attitude when he was recovering from a 7.62x39mm round he took in the shoulder from a Talib AK-47 one dark night in Ramadi while on patrol. He stepped back.
The young SEAL slowly raised his right hand in salute. All 243 of America’s Squadron saluted their President at the same time.
“Oorah, son,” said the President.
The young lieutenant hadn’t expected that from America’s chief executive. “Oorah, Mr. President,” he said back in a loud and proud voice that did justice to any man or woman who ever wore the uniform.
“Oorah,” thundered 243 voices behind him.
The President stood in the summer sunshine of Washington DC. At this moment, he realized there was no place on this earth that he would rather be than right here. The finest examples of courage and bravery in the American people he had the privilege of serving stretched before him. These people had taken time out of their busy lives to come here to the White House to see him. About what the President still couldn’t say. But he could smell the ribs already beginning to smoke next to the hastily erected canopies that shaded picnic tables off to the side near where they land Marine 1, the presidential helicopter.
A White House staffer had already brought a microphone and plugged it into the permanently installed outlet. They often used this spot for events when the weather was nice. The President stepped up and said, “America’s Squadron, I salute you and the American people salute you. I am…” he bowed his head for a moment as it slowly began to dawn on him why they might be here. “…I am humbled that you have taken the time to come here to what is truly your house. You have fought for it and have bled for it. Your families have paid dearly for it. I am just its temporary caretaker. But make no mistake, it is yours and by God always will be yours.”
The President turned the mike around for the young lieutenant to use if he wanted. The Navy SEAL crutched up to it and leaned forward on his metal crutches. “Mr. President, each of us brings to you a part of us today. It’s a little known fact that many of us serving in harm’s way have a private collection. It is testimony and a reminder of the pain we have suffered. But it is much more than that. It also says that we were not beaten. Some may call it gruesome. But they don’t understand the meaning because they have never been shot or taken shrapnel in combat.”
Now the President knew the full purpose of their visit. His shoulder ached from the 7.62 cal. round from so many years ago. He had to admit he had never stopped thinking about it.
The young man continued. “Sir, each of us has been wounded in combat protecting our country. We don’t want thanks. We don’t need any special help or attention. Sir, we just want to win—to beat hell out of those attempting to bring harm to our people and friends. That is who we are—America’s first string and first line of defense. We are America’s Squadron.” When he finished the words, a shout of Oorah from those 243 standing behind him thundered even louder this time.
Twitter address: @ChrisMalburg