Matthew McCleery is not the first industry insider to publish a novel about shipping but he may be the first to secure endorsements from the top two commanders of Norway’s most notable maritime clan.

Matt McCleery.
It may not come as a surprise to those in the know that the Connecticut-based author’s debut title, “The Shipping Man”, has caught the attention of John Fredriksen, Tor Olav Troim and other high ranking members of the marine cluster as many of the book’s characters evoke images of the market’s leading lights.

While McCleery’s foray into fiction includes a well-placed disclaimer about resemblances to real people as “purely coincidental” with the exception of well-known figures and locales, first names and initials like “JF”, “TOT” and others listed on the acknowledgments page are strikingly similar to tags attached to industry titans by maritime media.

Set in an era marked by a record-breaking drop in the Baltic Dry Index, the novel follows what its summary describes as New York hedge fund manager Robert Fairchild’s “odyssey into the most exclusive, glamorous and high stakes business in the world”.

(click HERE to read the first chapter)

"I really enjoyed Matt's book,” said Fredriksen in a brief critique. “It captures the people, places and deals that make the shipping industry so great.”

“My only criticism is that Robert Fairchild becomes a ‘shipping man’ in just one year,” he joked. “That is too short, even Tor Olav isn't a shipping man yet.”

Fredriksen’s right-hand man says the novel is “well written and entertaining” and admits some of the topics are “very familiar”.

“I feel I have been to Coco Jacobsen's offices in Aker Brygge several times," said Troim in reference to a character that depicts a Norwegian tanker owner from an upscale area of Oslo.

While McCleery says the story, which an unidentified reader from digital marketplace calls the comedic journey of an investor who finds himself ill-prepared for the realities of the world's second oldest profession, was meant to be entertaining he also claims the ultimate goal was actually quite serious.

He hopes the book will help build the relationship between the shipping sector and the capital markets through improved “mutual understanding” by teaching readers about complex concepts in a way that captures the “the fun of the business, the tremendous people and beautiful locales”.

George Gourdomichalis of Greek shipowner G Bros, which secured a mention on McCleery’s acknowledgements page, testified to the educational value of “The Shipping Man” when pressed for his opinion.

Painting on cover by Suzy Barnard.
He noted: “The Shipping Man is exciting, well-written and the best guide to our industry I have ever seen. Monday it becomes mandatory reading for all our business associates.”

The sentiment mirrored a review by Richard Hurowitz of Octavian Advisors, the New York-based equity fund’s chairman.

"The Shipping Man is really well written, absorbing and fun, and just very well done,” he said, adding: “I couldn't put it down. The book is also an excellent introduction to ship finance and one that I will use to train people."

While McCleery’s novel officially hit shelves less than four weeks ago he tells TradeWinds that his next book, “The Shipowner’s Daughter”, which incorporates characters from his first title, is already in the works.

He said: “I wanted to capture the remarkable moment in time that we are living in. Many of the senior people I have known, the keepers of so many stories and secrets, are no longer in the business and I wanted to create the book so that it would be around long after the current group of players in the market.”

While it’s too early to speculate as to which industry players would be appropriate critics of the new novel, it seems as if Katherine and Cecile Fredriksen are likely to be two of the top candidates.

Matt McCleery is best known in Connecticut shipping circles as the president of US publisher and conference organiser Marine Money International and as the managing director of financial consultancy Blue Sea Capital. He recently stepped down from the board of directors of Omega Navigation Enterprises and once served a similar function at FreeSeas.