Sunday, January 29, 2012

Review of The Vig

The internet is changing all kinds of businesses. It seems that no industry can escape its disruptive force. Publishing is perhaps one of the hardest hit industries. The internet's transformation of publishing started with how books were sold. It then transformed how newspapers and magazines are published and read. Now it is affecting the actual publication of books.

Not long ago, a would-be author would submit a manuscript to a publishing company. If he wanted to increase his chances of being taken seriously, he would hire an agent to try to sell the book on his behalf. However, traditional publishers don't want to take chances on unknown authors unless they feel fairly sure that a minimum number of books can be sold. If the author is a motivational speaker with a strong following or a celebrity with many fans, publishers know the book has a ready audience. A book by these kinds of authors will sell whether it is good or bad. For anyone else, however, it is almost impossible to get published by the traditional route.

However, today's promising authors are no longer at the mercy of the traditional publishing houses. Instead, they can self publish their works and put them up for sale through online retailers such as Of course, many self-published books are of poor quality. Yet every once in a while, you come across a gem. That's how I would describe John Nuckel's new book, The Vig. In full disclosure, I probably would never have read this book if I did not know the author personally. While this makes me less than perfectly objective, I have to say that despite some minor flaws, I really did enjoy reading The Vig.

For those not in the know, "vig" is short for "vigorish," a term traditionally used to describe a bookie's commission. Nuckel, a former options trader at the American Stock Exchange, uses the term to describe an illegal scheme designed by the characters in his book to skim a little out of the accounts of the traders every day.

The book begins on September 11, 2001. Nuckel, who was present when the World Trade Center towers came crashing down, actually witnessed the horrific scenes of death and destruction that he describes through the eyes of the book's protagonist, a floor trader whose mind is as sharp as a calculator. When the trader is able to return to work, he realizes that something is not quite right with his accounts. They seem to be just a little off. He starts asking questions, which result in a whirlwind of murder, mystery, and intrigue. The author is especially deft at character development. One unsavory criminal doesn't hesitate to murder his own brother. A sexy female assassin is as cold blooded as any assassin literature has produced.

The book's flaws mainly involve minor copy editing issues that do not prevent the reader from enjoying the read. In fact, the book really is hard to put down. It grabs your attention immediately and it doesn't let go. At 194 pages, The Vig is a relatively quick read. While some readers may find the details of floor trading and arbitrage a little hard to follow, anyone interested in investing will enjoy those sections as much as the others. I liked this book very much and I recommend it strongly.