Shelf Life

Core Concerns: Robbie Case, age 35, is at the top of his game. He's CEO of Core Communications, a company that's cornered the market when it comes to the high-speed transference of information: global mainframes; low-altitude satellites; fiber-optic cable; worldwide offices — the works.

How does it all work? Investors don't know, and they don't care. They just know the company is making a killing. So what if Case's devoted employees, their sleep-deprived eyes trained on computer screens, pay apparently no mind to their personal lives? And so what if Case himself rarely leaves his building's headquarters in New York City? (For that personal touch, he can and does hire visiting high-price hookers.) The man, everybody knows it because everybody says it, is a genius.

But what's this about a "shadow" system within the company? The mysterious "Blue Boxes" whose algorithms explain Core's dominance at what it does? The Fadowsky formula? Shell companies? Foreign bank accounts? Call it, this secret system, "Shimmer." (The boss man does.) That's the title of a new novel by Eric Barnes (publisher of The Memphis News and Memphis' Daily News) from Unbridled Books. Shimmer encompasses a weird (and wildly profitable) world of intangibles, but it's no weirder (and no less profitable) than contemporary financial systems. Profitable, until, in Shimmer as in today's markets, that world takes a nosedive.

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