Meet G.W. Eccles, Author of Corruption of Power
GWE: I’m a Londoner by birth. I read law at the London School of Economics and then went on to become a partner in one of the major financial services companies in the City. In the mid-90’s I moved to Moscow with my firm, then in 2000 I went to live in Almaty, Kazakhstan where I worked for five years as Chief Operating Officer of an US-backed enterprise fund. We had offices, for which I was also responsible, in, inter alia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, which form the settings for much of Corruption of Power.
I am married with two adult children. The whole family came with me to Moscow and then to Almaty. The children went to a Russian school for several years before going to boarding school back in the UK. My wife, and our cat called Lenin, now live in the South of France, and our children both work in London.
GWE: The short answer is my experiences during the period I lived in Russia and Central Asia.
Much is spoken about the threat to personal security in the former Soviet Union countries, but personally I didn’t find this an issue – unless you worked in certain key industries where turf wars were taking place, in particular, oil and gas, mining and banking.
What did strike me soon after I arrived in Moscow, however, was how alien the business world was when compared with what I was used to in the West. All dealings required a contract, but for many Russians the terms of a contract remained negotiable long after it was signed. Management of large and small companies would run side-businesses, using their companies’ assets for personal gain – and in many ways, they didn’t try to hide this fact as they lived well beyond the standard possible on their salaries. Life outside the major ‘Westernised’ cities was incredibly harsh for the average Russian.
During this period I worked with several oligarchs to help them maximise the return from the major Russian companies they had bought for an knockdown price from an enfeebled Yeltsin government. I was repeatedly struck by how young they were – by and large, apart from senior Soviet or FSB officials, it was the young who seized the opportunities that the post-Soviet collapse in regulation made possible.
When I moved to Central Asia, many of the same factors applied. In addition, I came across significant direct interference by the security services (eg I was followed for a whole day by a KNB official in Ashgabat because I tried to take a photo of the entrance to the KNB HQ which is located right on a main street), and repeated cases of judicial corruption. Judges were not just open to bribes – they pretty much insisted on them – so cases were for the most part decided almost before they were heard.
Finally, the settings of Corruption of Power are likely to be unfamiliar to most readers. Many may have been to Moscow, but few probably have ventured to Tashkent and Ashgabat, let alone into the Karakum Desert or onto the Garabil Plateau. I travelled extensively while I lived in Central Asia and got to know these places well. Getting around, though, was never easy: a relatively short journey from (say) Almaty to Ashgabat might take two days as it meant flying first to Tashkent, then waiting two days for the onward connection to Ashgabat. Sometimes the planes were pretty basic, and sometimes the fellow passengers were highly unusual. On one occasion we had to make an unscheduled stop to unload some goats that had been tether in the aisle!
BBB: Tell us about your main character.
GWE: The main character of The Oligarch and now Corruption of Power is Alex Leksin. He is the son of Russian emigres and raised in England. He had a glittering school and university career, and was recruited by MI5 while he was finishing his MBA at Harvard Business School to work in a new financial forensic unit aimed at combating ‘big ticket’ crime by following the money. After honing his forensic skills, he concludes that the biggest and most lucrative market for his services would be Russia, and moves there. By the time Corruption of Power takes place, his reputation and his contacts are fully established, and his services are so much in demand, his success fee rises to a non-negotiable one million euros.
Back in England, one of Leksin’s hang-up was not being quite British enough. To his surprise the same problem dogs him after his move to Moscow (not quite Russian enough). He’s a man of few real friends, but those he has are very close. Key among them is Nikolai Koriakov, a friend from his Cambridge days who is now deputy minister at the Department of Overseas Development and has the ear of Karpev, the Russian President.
Leksin is a man who is exceptionally driven. It’s not just a matter of money, it’s a matter of pride that he succeeds. While his initial approach to his assignments is methodical, it tends to be his intuition in the end that sees him through. If the need arises, he can look after himself, having been in his university karate team.
One of his driving forces is the desire to reconstitute his great-grandfather’s art collection. Before the Russian revolution, his grandfather had been a collector of some repute, but when he’d fled from the Bolsheviks, he’d been forced to leave his paintings behind. Each time Leksin gets paid for another completed assignment, he buys back another of these paintings which he displays in his apartment in Skatertny Lane, right in the heart of ‘old Moscow’.
Leksin’s relationships with women tend not to run smoothly. His sister, Lena, is a highly-strung but very talented pianist who, when the book opens, is recovering from a nervous breakdown in a Swiss clinic. His engagement to Vika Ustinov, an oligarch’s daughter, was broken off following a car accident – something that proves awkward since she is now running her late father’s conglomerate, the object of Leksin’s investigation in Corruption of Power.
BBB: What are you currently working on?
GWE: I’m about half-way through the third Leksin thriller. It’s planned right through to the end in detail, but it hasn’t got a title yet. It’s slightly different from The Oligarch and Corruption of Power. In both those books, Leksin is commissioned by the President and the issue is of national importance. In the new book, Leksin is commission by an individual who has been defrauded in a massive investor scam, and for various reasons President Karpev is uncomfortable about him taking the assignment. It will take me at least another six months to finish it, I suspect.
BBB: How can readers discover more about you and your work?
GWE: I have a website: http://www.gweccles.com, and author pages on Amazon and Goodreads. If anyone has any questions they’d like to ask me, or comments on my books after they’ve read them, they can contact me via the contact page on my website. I’d love to hear from them.
Book Purchase Links:
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Corruption-Power-G-W-Eccles-ebook/dp/B018XXLKAE
Amazon USA: http://www.amazon.com/Corruption-Power-G-W-Eccles-ebook/dp/B018XXLKAE
Amazon India: http://www.amazon.in/Corruption-Power-G-W-Eccles-ebook/dp/B018XXLKAE