Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest Roemer McPhee author of Killing the Market. Roemer was educated in history at Princton University and in finance at the Wharton Graduate School of business. He is also the author of The Boomer's Guide to Story, a large collection of essays searching for wisdom and insight in modern stories (novels, original screenplays, and even a few ballads.
Good day Roemer and thanks for participating in our interview.
Norm: Why did you become interested in writing about Robert W. Wilson and what were your goals and intentions in this book? How well do you feel you achieved them?
Roemer: Robert Warne Wilson is the greatest investor of all time, on the only criterion that counts: percentage return on capital. What you make with what you have, and started with. Wilson went 53,000 to one on his original stake of capital , and nobody can touch him, or ever has. Warren Buffet fans--take good notice. My goals were to figure him out, and I only got most of the way, not all the way. All great artists are ultimately mysterious, even to themselves.
Norm: Can you explain some of your research techniques, and how you found sources for your book?
Roemer: Wilson had no secrets, but he was a very private man. The business press in America was fascinated by Wilson very early, just as I have been later, and the press is the main source of information about Wilson’s unique investment career. My chief source on Wilson is that I knew him for about 25 years, in NYC, and met with him maybe a dozen times, mainly to talk about his work, and the stock market.
Norm: How did you come up with the title Killing the Market?
Roemer: “Killing the Market” came to me right away as a book title. It is just what Wilson did to the markets, and it is a big improvement on Bill O’Reilly’s book titles.
Norm: What challenges or obstacles did you encounter while writing your book? How did you overcome these challenges?
Roemer: Wilson left very little information behind, directly. Journalist John Train’s extensive writing about Wilson was very helpful to me, as were the major American business publications that would not let Wilson go, for very good reason: in the investment game, he was number-one, and everybody knew it. Late in his life, Wilson also appeared in philanthropy publications.
Norm: What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
Roemer: Celebrating this unique, still mysterious talent. Robert Wilson is the outward limit of human achievement.
Norm: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Roemer: I learned a great deal about Wilson’s investing work. A great deal more than I thought I would. His investment operations were as complex as they possibly could have been. He did everything, simultaneously, that he could have, as an investor. Wilson was at home with complexity.
Norm: What process did you go through to get your book published?
Roemer: I am running the book through the Amazon system for now, retaining all rights, and I am depending on Scott Lorenz for publicity—a fine operator out of Detroit, Robert Wilson’s hometown.
Norm: What would you say is the best reason to recommend someone to read your book?
Roemer: The number-one reason a person should read this book is to experience, in detail, human greatness. It is truly unbelievable, what all of us can achieve. Secondarily, the book will reinforce the need to work hard to achieve anything. Talent is great, but it must be worked, and shaped, and worked again, to produce real value of any kind.
Norm: How would you describe Robert W. Wilson, a lucky gambler with an enormous risk tolerance or an astute savvy investor who always expected to win relying on patience, persistence, minimizing mistakes, and understanding the difference between time and timing?
Roemer: Robert Wilson might appear lucky, but that is the last thing he was. His elaborate investment operations are what sent him in his career from no money to near billionaire status. And yet, I will also say that while Wilson was the furthest thing from lucky, his genius is ultimately a mystery. Like Michelangelo.
Norm: Are you working on any books/projects that you would like to share with us? (We would love to hear all about them!)
Roemer: I am looking for my next book project—as Wilson was looking for his next project, when he quit investing in 1986. I continue to be very active as a strategic investor, betting now against the US dollar, and betting on everything that moves in the other direction (particularly commodities)
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and Killing the Market?
Roemer: Killing the Market will have its own Amazon website page very shortly—in this month of May. Scott Lorenz and Westwind Communications out of Plymouth, Michigan have much more information about myself, and the book.
Norm: As this interview comes to an end, what question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has?
Roemer: The one question that I don’t hear about Robert W. Wilson concerns his productivity. He was more than a great investor: he never stopped working and producing, his entire life. Once his investing days were done, and without planning it, he became a philanthropist--and one of the most important in the world. Wilson is just about the most productive individual, living or dead, I have ever encountered. A machine; a wonderful machine.
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.