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What makes a Lloyds of London risk analyst write a novel

2005 ended with news networks recalling the natural strife caused by oceans warming and plates crashing together. One of the people whose job it was to analyse the risk of such events to people was Afshin Rattansi, whose debut quartet about life in London is publishes in 2006. Already lauded by some of publishing's top names, it looks at four aspects of London life but it is perhaps Rattansi's past as a risk analyst that informs some of his writing.

The title novel, The Dream of the Decade, is about the fall from grace of a cipher for all those who work in the City. The second concerns the threat of terrorism, the third the importance of owning property in the UK capital and the final volume is a panorama of London life seen through the eyes of a young trainee journalist. In the early nineties, Rattansi examined 20th century risk data that spanned everything from you bumping your car to the prevalence of hurricanes like Andrew and earthquakes like California's Northridge disaster.

It is in the minutiae of probabilities that "The Dream of the Decade" shines. For as it examines the relationships of ambitious and not so ambitious characters, each trying to make sense of a life in London, the reader emerges with a kaleidoscopic vision of themes, images and feelings that encompass the city in the 90s like little of contemporary fiction. One of the risks that Rattansi analysed at Lloyd's was that of war and though this is a book about the 1980s and 1990s so there is no Iraq, his look at the haphazard way a news network covers the Yugoslav war of the mid-1990s is salutary. The remove of journalists to the "ordinary" people who are the majority of the book could not be clearer. Though women tend to do better then men, financially, they are portrayed as grasping of something outside the average humdrum and as people who identify life's opportunities with more verve.

In the novel about property, in a cramped house split into two because of the boom in prices, a gun shop owner lusts after a florist as the protagonist of "A Taste of Money" worries about his affection for the florist's daughter. This is the locale of a man worrying about working in property redevelopment as his boss dreams of the aspirational life of magazines and colour supplements. The quartet is full of such miniatures even as it seems like the best curated of London galleries. "I can still feel the force of it. " Christopher MacLehose, Collins Harvill. "He captures the atmosphere of the late 80s.

" Dan Franklin, Martin Secker and Warburg. Title: The Dream of the Decade; Subtitle: The London Novels;Author: Afshin Rattansi ISBN: 1-4196-1686-2; LCCN: 2005909384; Category: Fiction;Length: 622 pages; Retail Price: $21.95;Binding: 5.25" x 8" trade paperback; Illustrations: Line Art and Photographs.

Edward Victor runs a London-based agency.


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