PAPER MONEY by Ken Follett



Ken Follett



Ken Follett


Ken Follett



THIS BOOK WAS WRITTEN in 1976, immediately before Eye of the Needle,

and I think it is the best of my unsuccessful books. It was published

under the pseudonym Zachary Stone, as was The Modigliani Scandal,

because the books are similar: they lack a central character, but

feature several groups of characters whose stories are linked and share

a common climax.

In Paper Money the links are less fortuitous, for the book is supposed

to show how crime, high finance, and journalism are corruptly

interconnected. The ending is rather somber by comparison with The

Modigliani Scandal–in fact it is almost a tragedy. However, it is the

differences and similarities between Paper Money and Eye of the Needle

that are most instructive. (Readers who want the cake, not the recipe,

should skip this and go straight to Chapter One.) The plot of Paper

Money is the cleverest I have ever devised, and the small sales of the

book convinced me that clever plots satisfy authors more than readers.

The plot of Eye of the Needle is of course very simple–in fact it can

be written down in three paragraphs, as indeed I did write it when I

first thought of it. Eye of the Needle has only three or four main

characters whereas Paper Money has a dozen or so. Yet with its complex

plot and large cast, Paper Money is only half the length of Eye of the

Needle. As a writer I have always had to struggle against a tendency

to underwrite, and in Paper Money you see me struggling in vain.

Consequently the many characters are painted in brisk, bold brush

strokes and the book lacks the feeling of detailed personal involvement

with the private lives of the characters that readers demand of a best


One of the strengths of the book is its form. The action takes place

during a single day in the life of a London evening newspaper (I worked

for such a newspaper in 1973 and 1974) and each chapter Chronicles one

hour of that day in three or four scenes describing both what happens

at the news desk and what happens in the stories the paper is covering

(or missing). Eye of the Needle has an even more rigid structure,

although nobody to my knowledge has ever noticed it: there are six

parts, each with six chapters (except for the last part, which has

seven), the first chapter in each part dealing with the spy, the second

with the spy catchers, and so on until the sixth, which always tells of

the international military consequences of what has gone before.

Readers do not notice such things–and why should they?–but still I

suspect that regularity, and even symmetry, contribute to what they

perceive as a well-told story. The only feature Paper Money shares

with Eye of the Needle is a wealth of good minor characters tarts,

thieves, half-witted children, working-class wives, and lonely old men.

In subsequent books I have not done this, for it only diverts from the

main characters and their story; yet I often wonder whether I am being

too clever. Today I am not as sure as I was in 1976 of the links

between crime, high finance, and journalism; but I think this book is

true to life in another way. It presents a detailed picture of the

London that I knew in the seventies, with its policemen and crooks,

bankers and call girls, reporters and politicians, its shops and slums,

its roads and its river. I loved it, and I hope you will too.


IT WAS the luckiest night of Tim Fitzpeterson’s life.

He thought this the moment he opened his eyes and saw the girl, in bed

beside him, still sleeping. He did not move, for fear of waking her;

but he looked at her, almost furtively, in the cold light of the London

dawn. She slept flat on her back, with the absolute relaxation of

small children. Tim was reminded of his own Adrienne when she was

little. He put the unwelcome thought out of his mind.

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