“Seeing is believing”, has often been recommended as a method of convincing people of what stands right in front of them, yet they refuse to acknowledge. Even though it is a surefire way of winning an argument in real life and in non-fiction writing, the “Quod erat demonstrandum” effect is tricky to achieve in a novel. And yet this is exactly the mission that was accomplished by Doug Casey, and his co-author, John Hunt.
A good old American thriller, like they used to be
“Speculator” tells the story of an ambitious young man, Charles Knight, who decided to make something of himself the smart way, which is not to be confused with the “easy way”. He therefore finds himself in West Africa, after he invested his modest initial capital in a gold mine in Gondwana, which successfully turned his thousands into millions, through what appeared to be the greatest gold find in history. But that’s only the beginning: He soon uncovers a six-billion-dollar fraud and goes down the rabbit hole of politics, corruption and deception; all the while being dogged by the US government and its most fearsome agency, the IRS. In his rite of passage into the world of speculation, his path crosses with a number of people, spanning human nature’s best and worst, deconstructing our preconceived notions of what is good, what is bad and what is truly ugly.
The story comes to life through the powerful, photographic descriptions of the landscape of Gondwana and its people: insights into local history and vivid images, as if straight out of a documentary, that could only be conjured up through first hand experience. One assumes this is where Casey’s many travels come in particularly handy. As for the dramatis personae, all quite dextrously fleshed out, their back stories and motivations make it easy to empathise and to understand their actions and their consequences.
Speculator offers the entertainment value of a good old American thriller: fast-paced, page-turning and addictive, with twists and surprises, packed with action, danger and adventure in the heart of the African bush. It has all the ingredients one needs in order to spend an enjoyable evening at home, with a good book and a brandy.
An affront to conventional morality
However, a few evenings of fine passive entertainment is not all that Speculator offers. It also provides a crash course in classical liberalism, in real-life economics and ethics.
The “moral of the story” is embedded seamlessly in the plot. There are no patronising arguments that disrupt the flow of the story, nor is there a single hint of preaching and of attempts to force any ideas on the reader. And yet the case is made, for personal liberty and against the state, through confronting the audience with realistic examples and dilemmas, allowing the individual to make up his own mind. By the end of the book, the line of reasoning, with its different angles, is so sound and relevant to “Jedermann’s” life, that it has enough stopping power to make even the most stubborn defender of the status quo at least take a moment and think.
Ultimately, the added value of the book lies in the challenge it poses to conventional thinking and to the cookie-cutter moral values, predetermined and delivered to us from above. It tears down the largely juvenile notions of a benign state, of “justice for all” and of profit being the root of all evil. It turns the tables on mainstream ethics and parochial definitions of “hero” and “villain”, as it dares the reader to confront the dogmatic ideologies of the day, and even their own personal biases, by tracing back whence they originated and questioning their premises.
Speculator is the first of a six-novel series by Doug Casey, all aimed at reforming the reputations of six highly politically incorrect occupations. The second novel of the series, “Drug Lord”, is due to be released next year.