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Interview with novelist, Alex Preston

Melanie Mingas meets Alex Preston, author of the highly acclaimed 'This Bleeding City'

Published on April 15th 2010.


Interview with novelist, Alex Preston

Alex Preston is an Oxford graduate, city trader and brother of The Ordinary Boys frontman, Preston (AKA Samuel Preston). He's also one of Waterstones' new voices for 2010 and this month his début novel 'This Bleeding City' hit the shops.

I felt there was a lot of picking over of the credit crunch and of how the banks got into trouble but from a semi-academic stand point. I wanted to look to what was happening with the people, how they were so greedy.

It tells the story of a man swept away in 'emotional, financial and moral boom and bust' and has launched to rave reviews. But as the credit crunch eases and we wave good bye, for now, to the longest recession since WWII, how many people want to read about bankers?

Preston explains: “I felt there was a lot of picking over of the credit crunch and of how the banks got into trouble but from a semi-academic stand point. I wanted to look to what was happening with the people, how they were so greedy, how they built all these things around themselves and got it so wrong.

“It's not asking people to feel sorry or sympathise with the characters, they don't lend themselves to that.”

'This Bleeding City' is about Charlie Wales, an ambitious young man with humble roots, who graduates from Edinburgh University and goes to work in London.

During his time at Edinburgh, he befriended the wealthy crowd with 'magazine-bright lives' and naturally re-adjusted his aspirations. Offered a job in the city, Charlie is just getting his feet under the table when the credit crunch hits.

In humanising the story, Preston draws on the symmetry between “the fluctuations of the market and the fluctuation of human emotions.”

“It's not my story, but I think it has become a common experience to be at university and to be offered a position in the city which offers enormous amounts of money. People ended up extremely unhappy.”

How have Alex's colleagues, past and present, reacted to the book?

“I've been pleasantly surprised that people have understood it's a work of fiction and secondly that a lot of people read it and, at least to me, said they enjoyed it.

“I expected people would desperately pick through to see if there were any references to themselves, but I've had some lovely emails about it.”

How does life as a writer compare to life as a city trader?

“It's about as different as you can get. I work all day, go home, bath my little boy then sit down to write.

“I wouldn't want to change that balance in either direction at the moment. Rather than being an academic, doing something where I'm in Tokyo one day and New York the next brings something to my writing that I wouldn't have otherwise.”

This Bleeding City is available to purchase at Waterstones priced £12.99

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