Michael Lewis teases new Wall Street book: ‘You’ll learn all about crypto’


Author Michael Lewis is being coy about his next project.

But, he says over a video call from his home in Berkeley, California: “I will lift my skirt a little, but not a lot here.”

He then gets more animated: “I really don’t want to reveal exactly what I’m writing about,” he tells Financial News. “But I found a character through whom I can write about — it weirdly links up Flash Boys, The Big Short duck Liar’s Poker.

“I guess it is possible it will be framed as a crypto book, but it won’t be a crypto book. It’ll be about this really unusual character. You’ll learn all about crypto and you’ll learn about what screwed up market structure in the United States and so on.”

As is typical for Lewis’ non-fiction tales, the story will be character-driven.

At just 29 years old in 1989, he made his debut with Liar’s Pokerwhich lifted the curtain on life as a young bond salesman on Wall Street and firmly established Lewis as a celebrity in the financial world.

He has had many hits since, most notably The Big Shortthe 2010 story of a half-dozen or so Wall Street insiders who built up bets against the US housing market before the global financial crisis.

For his latest book, he surprised himself by getting won over by a character in the cryptocurrency industry. He says that at least once a year for more than a decade, “I’ve had some serious entreaty from some serious person inside of the crypto world for me to write about crypto.

“And I have, with declining degrees of enthusiasm, engaged with these people, thinking, ‘Seems like it is sort of important. Maybe there’s something there.’ And it takes me about six hours to go cold and have no interest.”

That was until recently, when he was introduced by a mutual friend to a man in the crypto industry. He declined to give more details about his identity, but said all it took was a hike together.

“At the end of the hike, I said, ‘Holy s***.’ All of a sudden, I got interested in crypto,” he says.

“I got interested in financial structure, or the structure of financial markets, all over again — and the distribution of rewards inside the financial system. And it was entirely because of the person.

“Interesting characters and interesting situations will generate a story for you. You don’t have to worry about it too much. I’m essentially over the next year going to be at this person’s hip. I don’t know quite what the story looks like yet.”

He’s also busy writing a script for a series on streaming service AppleTV+ that is based on his 2008 Vanity Fair article about Cuban baseball players, in what might be his first foray into successful scriptwriting.

“I’m one of the greatest failures as a screenwriter in the world,” he jokes. “This is the sixth TV show I’ve sold. And I’m zero for five so far in getting them on the air. And I’ve written a couple of movie scripts, one with someone else. Neither of those have been made.”

His book-to-movie adaptations — where he had little to no involvement — have a higher success rate. Oscar-nominated Moneyballand Oscar-winning The Blind Side duck The Big Shortwere all Hollywood hits.

“The people in the movie business, if they’re adapting a book, would so much prefer the author to be dead,” he says.

“And you feel that. And you feel that they know what they’re doing. And if they don’t know what they’re doing, you shouldn’t sell your book to them.”

Lewis says he’s “niche, but in everything”. To financial types, Lewis writes about finance. But he’s more prolific and doesn’t tend to stick to any one genre — many of his dozens of articles, podcast appearances and columns have nothing to do with finance at all.

Home Game was a 2009 riff on fatherhood. Playing to Wina book he wrote for Audible in 2020, follows the rise of competitive youth sport in American culture.

His latest book, last year’s The Premonitionis about the US government’s blundered response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

He laughs at how he is often cornered into genres. “I had an excessively self-centered view about how my literary career was going to unfold,” he says. “When I started, I knew I wasn’t a financial writer. Wall Street was an accident. I just happened to start my life there.

“I thought about it as: ‘I’m going to move from America’s arena of ambition to America’s arena of ambition. I’m going to go from Silicon Valley to Washington to professional sports to the financial world. And then the audience will follow me.’”

But that’s not how it turned out.

“It’s: ‘Oh, you write financial books’, ‘Oh, you write about sports’ or ‘Oh, I love your book about psychologists’.

“They don’t know about any other book. I didn’t think it was going to play out that way.”

An Audience With Michael Lewis will be in the 15 August edition of Financial News

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email Trista Kelley

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