Drawing from his own experiences in the turbulent ‘70s and ‘80s, hedge fund pioneer Jerrold Fine blends a heartfelt story of a young man fiercely intent on achieving independence with a fascinating insider’s look at the perks and pitfalls of a high-stakes life in the world of financial markets in his debut novel.
Rogers Stout has the gambler’s gifts—a titanic brain, an uncanny ability to read people, and a risk-taker’s daring. As an apathetic high school student who loves baseball but lacks a 90-mph fastball, he knows that the game does not begin until the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand. But his life needs direction. He longs to prove himself and achieve his goals, yet is torn between the thrill of trading and investing, and pursuing a higher purpose in life. And through it all, he still feels the loss of his mother, who died when he was too young to remember her—an open wound that refuses to heal.
Everything changes the summer he is invited into the boisterous environment of an investment bank’s trading room, and to a gambling hall dive where he immediately wins big at poker, capturing the attention of his co-workers with his card-playing skills. Intrigued by trading markets, Rogers’s intellectual curiosity takes him to Wharton and then Wall Street, where he faces challenges as an outsider who thinks and acts differently from the white-shoe establishment. With his intuition and prowess, he’s ready to rewrite the rules and tackle markets with a flair that leaves his employers flabbergasted.
Rogers senses opportunity and willingly accepts the challenge that awaits him. He leans heavily on his gut instincts and the unusual cadre of friendships he cultivates, but learns the hard way to be alert to the perils that await him.
As Rogers plays his career hand, life plays another. Should he follow the temptress Elsbeth and her ravishing beauty, or Charlotte, his high-spirited first love?
An intriguing look at human aspiration and the interplay of honor, greed, fear, and individuality, Make Me Even and I’ll Never Gamble Again: A Novel reveals a time when a new generation upended the status quo on Wall Street and forever changed investing.
“A rip-roaring yarn of baseball, poker, and Wall Street told with humor and humanity.”
—Geoffrey Garrett, Dean, The Wharton School
“I bet you won’t be able to put down this book. Jerry Fine’s debut novel tells the rollicking tale of Rogers Stout, a middle-class kid from Cincinnati with a knack for numbers and a rapier wit. You’ll root for the charming Rogers as he heads east, working his way through the elite Wharton School and then rising through the ranks on Wall Street. By turns hilarious, insightful, and touching, Fine has written a coming-of-age story for the ages.”
—Peter Lattman, Vice Chairman, The Atlantic
“An illuminating and fascinating insider’s look, narrated by a daring young risk-taker determined to prove his worth and earn his independence. The narrative is propelled forward by the competitive intensity and passion of his quest to make it big on Wall Street. There is a compelling honesty to this ‘must win’ attitude. I couldn’t put this novel down.”
— Paul N. Roth, Founding Partner of Schulte, Roth & Zabel
“The years approaching and immediately beyond our twenties are filled with sexual excitement, wonder at the range of choices, terror of failing and a variety of disappointments. The hero of Jerry Fine’s smartly written book survives these challenges because of his competitiveness, humility and resilience. Anyone reading this will relive his or her own experiences and be reminded of what a miraculous time of discovery it was.”
—Byron R. Wien, Vice Chairman, Private Wealth Solutions at Blackstone Group
Q: What inspired you to write a novel?
I wanted to be challenged again. When Rogers’ character came to me, I leapt at the opportunity to tell his story. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.
Q: Why did you choose to write fiction over, perhaps, a memoir or a non-fiction book on investing?
Readers don’t need to suffer through another “What I Accomplished” book. Also, I thought Rogers’ character and journey were more interesting than a set of rules for successful investing in the financial markets.
Q: Do any of your characters’ experiences mirror your own?
I thought it was important to place Rogers in environments and during times that I knew well. Although I spent significant periods of my life in Cincinnati, at Penn-Wharton and on Wall Street, the characters in my novel are fictional. While some of Make Me Even… parallels my history, Rogers’ personality and experiences are his own.
Q: You have created a number of strong leading characters and captivating individuals with smaller roles in Rogers’ life. How did you build out your characters?
Once I grasped the complexity of Rogers’ mind — how he analyzed situations, his fears and motivations, his reactions to the risk of failure and the joy of success, I knew he needed to be surrounded by strong characters who could help him along his way. As Rogers came of age, so did the characters in his life.
Q: How did you choose the time frame for the novel? Was there something happening in the culture or in investing that spoke to you?
As Rogers was emerging from his apathetic teenage years, the financial markets were in a period of great turmoil, exhibiting significant volatility. Traditional investment management wasn’t working and change was on the horizon. It was a perfect time for an outsider like Rogers to be at its forefront.
Q: What are the life lessons you wove into the book for your main characters?
While Rogers’ experiences numerous life lessons throughout the book, the prevalent ones are:
1. Listen carefully and ask questions that lead you onward.
2. Understand that decision-making can be a very lonely proposition.
3. Realize that you probably won’t accomplish your goals unless you believe in yourself.