Cover image for The Street : a novel
The Street : a novel
Gruenfeld, Lee.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Doubleday, [2001]

Physical Description:
399 pages ; 25 cm
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A razor-sharp, blisteringly on-target thriller set in the world of dot-com start-up madness -- a deft and entertaining mix of the confidence-game masterworks of Elmore Leonard, Carl Hiassen, and Donald Westlake, as well as classic tell-all business narratives such asLiar's PokerandBarbarians at the Gates. James Vincent Hanley, a Wall Street stockbroker specializing in Internet start-ups and unhappily slaving away for a subsistence wage of only $300,000, makes the jump to the other side of the Street and into the biggest game in history. He's done his dot-com homework and launches his own start-up,, with the key ingredients for success--technology so cutting-edge it's barely decipherable, a world-class board of directors whose credentials command a lemming-like public following, and carefully orchestrated Street buzz of epic proportions. Jubal Thurgren, assistant director of enforcement for the Security and Exchange Commission and a man of Columbo-like intelligence and personality, smells a rat. Even as the buzz increases, Thurgren's instincts tell him that Artemis-5, which has yet to reveal any substantive products or services, may not be quite what Hanley has cracked it up to be. As public delirium over Artemis-5's impending stock offering escalates, Hanley and Thurgren, each with a spy in the other's camp, launch elaborate and progressively more dangerous cat-and-mouse games. Each of them is deeply committed to his own cause: Thurgren can't let Hanley continue unchallenged, and Hanley can't let Thurgren get in the way of his plans. The two of them spiral inexorably toward a final confrontation, a complex and explosive sting where deceit and betrayal do suspenseful battle with old-fashioned idealism and the search for truth. Featuring the most likable and insidious cast of characters since The Sting, The Street is sure to satisfy thriller lovers, business-story aficionados, and all of us who are hopelessly confused by a new, Net-crazed economy that threatens to overwhelm not only our culture but also our common sense.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

A Wall Street caper whose bite and punch come from deft plotting and first-class insider knowledge (Gruenfeld, an authority on advanced information technology, is a former management consulting partner at a "Big Five" firm). This is a morality tale in which Gruenfeld drives home his belief that the "Can't Lose Cafe" of the stock market is a delusion. The action takes off when a Wall Street stockbroker who specializes in Internet start-ups tires of advising others (and making a mere $300,000 a year) and decides to create the perfect company, a sheer fantasy that gets the Wall Street buzz going and profits soaring. Plodding into the stockbroker's elaborate sting is an assistant director of enforcement for the Securities and Exchange Commission whose mission is to keep budding capitalists within legal bounds. This business-world thriller crackles with incisive wit, cat-and-mouse moves, and an unforgettable message. --Connie Fletcher

Publisher's Weekly Review

Gruenfeld's latest thriller (after The Expert) reads like weak Grisham: good old boys slaving away, trying to nail millionaires who are ripping off the American public. Only now it's the Information Age, and the good guys are chewing nicotine gum instead of smoking cigarettes, and their enemies aren't old school financial corporations, but startups with no tangible products. Despite lengthy legal and financial descriptions, the story is relatively simple: James Hanley has started a company ( and attracts some of the nation's most influential investors to sign on to his endeavor. Anticipation builds, and although the investors don't really know what it is they've bought into, the company's launch is one of the most talked about in Internet history mainly because of the high-profile names and the secrecy surrounding it. SEC enforcement officer Jubal Thurgren smells a rat, though, and the bulk of the book plays out the high-stakes investigation Thurgren mounts in an attempt to nab Hanley, who seems to know the SEC's charges aren't unfounded yet insists on dodging rules. Gruenfeld offers some classic thriller sequences, with car chases and shootings, but most of the pages are taken up by windy conversations. His reportorial style is heavy on phrases like "prospective competitive reflex," although he gives understandable definitions of terms such as "IPO" for those who don't read the Industry Standard. This commentary on the crazed world of new technology lacks originality, but will interest those who read market charts the way others read sports scores. (Mar.) Forecast: What an odd collection of blurbs decorate the dust jacket of this book. There are raves from Nelson DeMille, Stephen Frey and Christopher Reich, but also from profs at Harvard Business School and a law school, and one from an investment banker. The financial crowd is Gruenfeld's obvious market, and they'll make the book a hit, but more generic thriller readers won't flock to this title. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



CHAPTER ONE April 1 James Vincent Hanley hated his job and therefore his life. That combination was not terribly unusual, especially in the financial world, where what you did for a living could easily account for half your waking hours and the aftereffects could pretty much wreck the other half. Hanley worked in the institutional sales division of Schumann-Dallis, a powerhouse nicknamed "The Virgin" because the address of its monolithic black building was Three Maiden Lane in the Wall Street district of Manhattan. Hanley's specialty was moving great gobs of money around whenever a hi-tech company was involved in an IPO, an initial public offering, the process by which a corporation that was privately owned sold itself to the public at large. Back in the good old days, companies went public in order to raise enough money to expand. In exchange for giving up exclusive control, the private owners sold off minority ownership in the form of stock and used the proceeds to buy more steamships or build new factories or acquire other companies in the interest of empire building. In order to do that, investors traditionally insisted on seeing five years of audited financials and at least three years of consistent profitability. But things had changed. Companies were going public primarily so their owners could cash in--or out, as was increasingly the case. And whereas the old-line industrialists steeled themselves to reluctantly cede ownership in companies they'd struggled to build up over decades, today's brand of entrepreneur gleefully jumped into the IPO fray so they could reap billions out of companies that sometimes hadn't even had a full year in business. Nowhere was this practice more rampant than in the Internet arena. One company, an "incubator" called IdeaConnexion and run by CEO Burton Staller, was in business strictly to start up new Internet-based companies and then sell them off within twelve months. James Vincent Hanley, who'd been involved in three of Staller's deals, spent his days gritting his teeth as he allocated blocks of shares in Internet start-ups, creating instant paper billionaires as he himself was forced to scrape by on subsistence wages of barely $300,000 a year. On this April Fool's Day, Hanley was in a particularly foul mood. One of the phone reps in the department had run a gag ad in the Wall Street Journal announcing an IPO for a new company whose purported objective was to allow people to auction off their organs to patients awaiting donors. An hour ago they had all been having a good laugh, but since then Hanley's multiline phone had been jammed by calls from clients wanting to invest because the sham company was called and would be operating on-line. Hardly any of them even asked questions about the new venture. Some just wanted wire instructions for transferring funds. The phony ad hadn't even listed Schumann-Dallis as an underwriter, and people were practically breaking down the doors to dump money into it. One client called from a cell phone, and Hanley could hear him battling with two flight attendants who were trying to grab the phone away because they were still on departure from JFK. Right now, every light on Hanley's phone console was blinking. His buddies were routing calls his way because Hanley was considered a chameleon with a gift for articulation that allowed him to instantly snap into whatever verbal mode the immediate situation required. He could spout utterly nonsensical but high-sounding business jargon in one breath, then turn around and banter in Brooklynese with a hot dog vendor in the next. The one thing he couldn't do very well was hide the intelligence and street smarts that made it all possible. With no way to stop the ridiculous calls, he reached down below his desk and yanked the thick phone wire out of the wall, indelicately failing to release the little plastic retainer pin first and thereby taking some plaster with it, then sat and morosely contemplated the madness. Geeks with half his brains were driving Ferraris to chic little food stores in Palo Alto to buy $1,500 bottles of balsamic vinegar. High school dropouts had their own fleets of Gulfstreams. One guy he knew, a run-of-the-mill programmer, had been having trouble getting phone connections to his parents in Vietnam, so the last time he'd gotten through, he'd just left the phone off the hook. The line had remained open, continuously racking up international long distance charges, for the last four months. An industry segment that was barely identifiable at the start of the last decade was now driving the entire market. Companies that hadn't even existed a year ago, and which had laughably puny sales and frightening net losses, would go on the market at $10 a share and hit $100 by lunchtime, sometimes ending up capitalized at values several times those of venerable giants that had been founded a century before. Even a serious downturn in tech stocks, which should have served as a frightening warning to return some sanity to the market, backfired utterly: As the segment slowly and steadily recovered, speculators took it as a sure sign that this market was invincible and could rebound from anything, and they dove back in with renewed vigor. Investors never even read the required SEC filings; they just held out their checkbooks and asked the maximum amount they could buy. Announce a delay of one month in the shipping date of a new chip and the market's net valuation could drop by half a trillion dollars in a matter of hours. Unthinkably large sums of money were being dumped into houses of cards whose foundations were not only perilously shaky but sometimes almost impossible even to define. It was vastly more out of control than the dizzying margin spiral prior to the horrific crash of 1929 that preceded a worldwide plunge into a decade of desolation, but what was really pissing off James Vincent Hanley was the fact that he was sitting in front of a (now defunct) phone in a windowless room on Maiden Lane in south Manhattan working his ass off eighty hours a week to funnel those truckloads of money into everybody's hands but his own. Miserable and dejected, he half-listened as the broker in the next cubicle conducted an impatient, clipped conversation with a client. "How the {{expletive}} should I know what they do, Harold. . . . What am I, a Caltech professor? It's an Internet start-up and I got eighteen more calls backed up here from people with their checkbooks out, so if all you're gonna do is ask me a lotta . . . okay . . . okaaaay, now you're talking! So how much . . . No, no, forget it. I said forget it! The max is a hundred thousand and . . . because those're the goddamned rules, that's why, you want me to lose my job? Now, you want in, or what? What? No, your wife can't also go in for a hundred thou. . . . Harold, your wife's been dead for two years! Harold . . . I'm hanging up, Harold! You hear me, I'm hanging up! Okay, that's better. I'm faxing you the wire instructions. The money's gotta be here in an hour or . . ." Hanley stood up and looked into the cubicle on his left. Tony Favuzzo, headset stuck in his ears, punched a button on his phone, listened for less than two seconds, then rolled his eyes up at Hanley and dropped his head back wearily. "It was a joke, Mr. Thornton." He squeezed the mute button and said to Hanley wearily, "Another hour of this and I'm gonna auction my freakin' soul on-line." He let go of the button. "An April Fool's gag. Uh-huh. Yes, I'm sure it's actually a pretty good idea but . . . No, as far as I know, nobody's registered on the Internet yet. No, I have no idea how to . . . Certainly, Schumann-Dallis would be glad to handle the underwriting if you decide to . . ." Hanley looked around. Cubicles stretched in all directions. The din of a hundred conversations floated upward, and all around the room drifted the unmistakable odor of money. Boatloads of it, moving from port to port and traveling so swiftly it left barely a trace in those places where it had set down momentarily before floating off again. Once there had been factories, railroads, oil wells, and real estate to denote where money, like a wolf urinating on a tree, had marked its territory. Great buildings, vast complexes, mighty steamships, even entire cities gave substance to the power of the dollars that had built them. Now? Whoopie!.com, which consisted of barely more than a few dozen desktop computers and as many employees, was worth more on paper than Sears. Twice as much, if truth be told. Hanley looked back at his own desk, his computer terminal, his phone, and the bits of plaster littering the space below his chair. The word "broker" came from the French brocour, one who "broaches" a barrel of wine and sells it off by the glass or bottle, and he wished he were in that business right now so he could guzzle his whole supply by himself. "Mr. Hanley!" He recognized the nasal voice even before he turned around. It was the president of one of the start-up companies Schumann-Dallis was handling. In existence for only eight months, it was about to go public. "Arnold!" Hanley called back with unfelt amiability. He quickly reached for a book sitting on his shelf--a leather-bound copy of A Financial History of New York, one of several thousand Schumann-Dallis had given to all its employees the Christmas before--flipped it open and turned it upside down over the plaster mess on his carpet before turning and walking rapidly to make sure the new client didn't notice anything amiss. "We're taking Mr. Plotkin on a little tour of the department, Jim," the senior account executive escorting the client said. "That's nice." Hanley shook hands with the imminent billionaire. "Listen, let me take him around, okay?" "You sure, Jim?" "No problem. C'mon, Arnold." As they left the account exec, Hanley said, "Arnold, you mind if I ask you something?" "Sure, Mr. Hanley." The worldly unwise Plotkin still hadn't figured out that a corporate CEO and major client of the firm didn't need to address a salesman as 'Mister.' "What do you want to know?" Hanley ran his hand through his hair. He was six feet tall, or at least he had been before he'd started this job. Now he felt like he'd shrunk an inch or two, whether from terminal ennui or a slightly stooped and beaten posture he couldn't tell. His thick, sandy hair, once a source of considerable pride, had become a nuisance of late, and he'd taken to letting it grow far too long before he cut it far too short, the better to stretch out the intervals between time-wasting haircuts. He'd even given up his participation in the compulsory young-Wall-Street-hotshots fashion competition, the stress of correctly anticipating the trends having overwhelmed the fleeting satisfaction of senseless victories. Only the overpriced haberdashers in lower Manhattan were winning that ongoing war, and he'd grown tired of subsidizing their prize money. Now that he had the soon-to-be-legendary Arnold Plotkin all to himself for a few minutes, Hanley wasn't exactly sure what it was he wanted to know. "Look, I, uh, I'm not much of a technical whiz, see?" "Yeah." Plotkin pushed his thick glasses higher on his face, grimacing and revealing badly neglected teeth in the process. He rubbed his nose and stepped nervously from one foot to the other. Here was a man--a kid, really--clearly more comfortable talking to his laptop than to people. "That's okay. Most people, they're not so smart in computers." "Right. Okay, what you do, what your software does, it helps people find what they want on the Web, right?" "Uh-huh." "But there are all these search engines already. Dozens of them. I use them myself, and they're very good, so what is it your stuff does that's so different?" "Jeez, Mr. Hanley," Plotkin said, scratching at the rear end of his worn corduroys. "You're gonna be part of the IPO team. Didn't you even look at our stuff?" "What for?" Plotkin blinked at Hanley a few times, realizing he'd been asked a good question. "Okay. Well, what happens is, sometimes a user enters some search parameters, and they don't say exactly what he thought they said." "Like . . . ?" "Like . . . okay, okay . . ." Plotkin bent forward and shook his hands, not unlike a first-grader called on to answer a question in class and struggling to find the right words. "Let's say you're writing a paper for school and you want to find out something about the planet Saturn, okay? Like maybe, I don't know, how big it is, okay?" "Okay." "Okay. So you go to a search engine and you enter in Saturn and size, and what it does, it comes back and it's got like five hundred sites and you click one and it says Saturn has a wheelbase of fourteen feet! Get it? You see what happened? It thought you meant the car, see? It thought you meant the car and it gave you the size of the wheelbase!" Plotkin giggled, sort of a cross between a snort and a death rattle, and pushed at his glasses again. Hanley nodded, and tried to force a smile of his own. Excerpted from The Street by Lee Gruenfeld All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.