KGB Banker: Veteran LFS judge John Christmas recognized for his conspiracy thriller

Most Libertarian Futurist Society members enjoy reading fiction, but few write it. John Christmas, a veteran LFS member and Best Novel finalist judge based in Europe, does both.

A former banker whose banking career ended when his whistleblowing against his employer was covered up by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Christmas wove his real-life experiences into his novel KGB Banker, co-written with William Burton McCormick.

The novel has just been recognized by Best Thrillers as the “Best Conspiracy Thriller of 2022.”

For more information, visit the Best Thrillers website.

How Christmas came to co-write the novel with McCormick, he said, is a roundabout, fascinating and unlikely but true story.

After starting his banking career in the U.S., Christmas had an opportunity to go to work for the largest bank in Latvia as their Western representative.

“This was exciting for me, given my Latvian heritage,” Christmas said.

John Christmas (Photo courtesy of author)

“I was eager to get involved in Latvia’s transformation from a communist system to a free-market system, but sadly, it turned out that Latvia became an oligarchic, kleptocratic system, similar to Russia and even with some of the same oligarchs,” he said.

When he learned about insiders embezzling assets and Kremlin-linked money-laundering, Christmas became a whistleblower.

“The whistleblowing didn’t turn out as I expected,” he said.

Although he expected Latvian authorities to use the information to save themselves billions of Euros, the government instead organized a cover-up with a publicly funded development bank that ended up causing the public to lose even more money, with the bankers also looting Ukraine and Moldova, Christmas said.

Meanwhile, author Bill McCormick had spent years living in Latvia and Ukraine and wrote a popular historical novel about Latvia.

When the two men met, they decided to collaborate on a political/high-finance thriller that fictionalized their experiences.

“We agreed that the storyline of a bank whistleblower fighting a corrupt bank, and then having to fight the government because the government sided with the corrupt bank, would make a terrific thriller,” Christmas said.

The co-authors also agreed that it made sense to fictionalize the story, rather than to write a nonfiction book directly about Christmas’ experiences.

“We wanted to mix up the names, actions, scenes such that we could avoid angering the real criminals. We thought that would work out perfectly,” he said.

Published by Milford House Press, the 314-page political thriller is available in paperback and as an ebook.

Here’s how Christmas describes his novel on Amazon:

“A return trip to the land of his ancestors is about to turn deadly for one whistleblowing Chicago banker.

When financial executive Bob Vanags takes a job at ominous Turaida Bank in Latvia, he hopes to learn of his heritage and to fight economic fraud in Eastern Europe. Instead, Bob finds himself pulled into a world of political intrigue, blackmail, and murder.

Aided by his son David, his beautiful colleague Agnese, and a fearless Latvian journalist named Santa Ezeriņa, Bob begins to unravel his employer’s darkest secrets, discovering their sins and conspiracies beyond his wildest fears. Secrets that Turaida wants to keep hidden, even at the cost of Bob’s life.

Now framed for murder by Turaida operatives, Bob must go on the run to clear his name, protect his family, and reveal the plot to the world before governments topple and war ignites in Europe. KGB Banker is a pulse-pounding international thriller spanning the globe from Latvia to Iceland, Moscow to America, Ukraine to the Estonian islands and back again.”

Note: Because KGB Banker is not science fiction, it was not eligible for nomination for the Prometheus Awards.
If it had been, Christmas would have had to step down from his judging position, at least for that year. Under long-established LFS conflict-of-interest rules, no one can serve as a Prometheus judge if one of their eligible works is nominated for the award that year.

Watch  videos of past Prometheus Awards ceremonies, Libertarian Futurist Society panel discussions with noted sf authors and leading libertarian writers, and other LFS programs on the Prometheus Blog’s Video page.

* Prometheus winners: For the list of Prometheus winners, finalists and nominees – for the annual Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame) categories and occasional Special Awards – visit the enhanced Prometheus Awards page on the LFS website, which now includes convenient links to the full set of published appreciation-reviews of past winners.

* Read “The Libertarian History of Science Fiction,” an essay in the international magazine Quillette that favorably highlights the Prometheus Awards, the Libertarian Futurist Society and the significant element of libertarian sf/fantasy in the evolution of the modern genre.

Join us! To help sustain the Prometheus Awards, join the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), a non-profit all-volunteer association of freedom-loving sf/fantasy fans.



Published by

Michael Grossberg

Michael Grossberg, who founded the LFS in 1982 to help sustain the Prometheus Awards, has been an arts critic, speaker and award-winning journalist for five decades. Michael has won Ohio SPJ awards for Best Critic in Ohio and Best Arts Reporting (seven times). He's written for Reason, Libertarian Review and Backstage weekly; helped lead the American Theatre Critics Association for two decades; and has contributed to six books, including critical essays for the annual Best Plays Theatre Yearbook and an afterword for J. Neil Schulman's novel The Rainbow Cadenza. Among books he recommends from a libertarian-futurist perspective: Matt Ridley's The Rational Optimist & How Innovation Works, David Boaz's The Libertarian Mind and Steven Pinker's Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress.

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