Picks and Pans Review: Bombardiers

UPDATED 03/13/1995 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 03/13/1995 at 01:00 AM EST

by Po Bronson

The bombardiers of the title are the bond salesmen of Atlantic Pacific's San Francisco trading room. Starting at 4 a.m. (to catch the Japanese market), shunning home lives, stressed to the max but enticed by the lavish commissions, they man the phones, dropping their high-yield payloads on the unwary.

Branson's war metaphor is apt: Bombardiers is a kind of Catch-22 of the information age, a kingdom where the mad rule the crazed and survival depends on turning logic inside out. Unlike Heller in his classic tale, however, Bronson has an irritatingly shrill voice, and no matter how he struggles to gain altitude, bonds are not bombs. Still, he makes a brave run over the target area: The only way Sidney Geeder can peddle the questionable instruments that Atlantic Pacific puts together is to hate the bonds so fiercely that he has to unload them.

Sid's breaking point is an unprecedented and ruthless deal: a barely legal arrangement that would make the nearly bankrupt Dominican Republic a Delaware corporation instead of a sovereign nation. Geeder desperately wants to bail out of the deal, the lifestyle, his own warped vision. His only hope is an even more ruthless colleague: Eggs Igino, a rebellious new salesman who graduated from college a millionaire, having invested a student loan on high-rolling stocks. When the deal—and his career—crash-land, Sid does find an escape hatch. But Bronson leaves an important question unanswered: Is it salvation or just a mutation of the madness? (Random House, $22)

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