David Scott Moore of Darien has a writer’s impulse to incorporate bits and pieces — of lives, of scenes, of a certain look or an attitude — into his work. By day he’s a bank manager for Greenwich Bank & Trust, but on his own time he’s thinking about storylines and dialogue.
Occasionally these two parts of his life overlap, as in the case of his new novel, a crime story, where real-life training in money laundering detection for the banker sparked a plot line for the writer. Monkey Man is set in Greenwich and Stamford, familiar territory for Moore, who grew up in Greenwich and is familiar with the settings where his protagonist Ike Caudine tries to find his footing in a rapidly changing world.
Describing the book as “the first novel I’ve finished,” Moore, who’s 53, said “I like to write poetry and plays and this started as a couple of short plays.” He’d established characters that he wanted to explore and expand on. And that’s where the money laundering training came in handy.
The story begins in 1995, when a young, somewhat aimless Ike is working as a salesman for a billboard company in Fairfield County and living in a shared house in Old Greenwich, driving a K-car and sweating through his suits. It’s the beginning of “the internet” and Ike is eager to jump on the new-technology bandwagon although he’s not clear exactly how it works or where it will take him.
Fritz, his high school buddy who’s been taking a hiatus from working, is brilliant at business schemes and has a younger cousin who has the start-up contacts who will set up Fritz and Ike in a “new media” publishing operation. Terms like “cross-platform synergy” fly freely.
Two years later, the scheme has gone belly-up because while the partners liked the perks and easy cash of the early days, they never really had a grip on the business.
Ike eventually finds a slot as a receptionist at a small business, a job with no future and few demands. He wants more from life but doesn’t know how to get it. The fast-forward to 2005 finds Fritz still seemingly unemployed but holding an M.B.A. and a mysterious source of funds.
When Fritz unravels, his “business” — basically laundering cash for drug dealers — falls into Ike’s hands. It’s a dangerous situation to be in but it promises the wealth that Ike has craved and the chance to have a future with Mary, who’s been in and out of his life over the past 10 years. How it all turns out is for readers of Monkey Man to discover.
Moore, who like his character Ike started in sales out of high school, realized early on that he needed a college degree to advance and he earned his in English with a concentration in writing from Western Connecticut State University in Danbury.
“You’re judged by how you can communicate” in the business world, he said, and as he moved into finance and eventually retail banking, he continued to enjoy writing. It led him to complete his master’s degree in English at WestConn and to the discipline of writing regularly.
His goal in each session is to put down 1000-1500 words: “I write in chapters,” he explained. “Everything is a scene.” He fits in the work amid the demands of his profession and his family life: he and his wife have a daughter who’s 11 and a son who’s 3.
Monkey Man (the title inspired by the Rolling Stones song) ranges across the restaurants and watering holes of Greenwich and Stamford, with characters who come from all levels of society — up-country wealth to the dealers in worn-down urban housing who supply the drugs the wealthy crave. It’s a rough ride; few of the novel’s players are people the average person might want to spend time with. The exception would be Ike, whose backstory is gradually revealed.
Moore is fond of Fritz, in the same way that his protagonist Ike is: amazed by his brilliance and saddened by his inability to use that brilliance legitimately.
Talking about the influences in his work, Moore said that the lyrics of Monkey Man fit the novel well; it was part of the soundtrack of Goodfellas, his favorite film. Another strong influence is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, with its themes of social upheaval and decadence, matched in some ways by the characters in Monkey Man, he said.
David Moore will talk about his novel and his writing process on Saturday, Feb. 27, at 2 p.m. at the Barrett Bookstore, 314 Heights Road, Darien. A reception and book signing will follow. For more information about Monkey Man, visit davidscottmoore.net; for information about his talk, visit barrettbookstore.com or call 203-655-2712.