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Robert Harris's "The Fear Index" makes a thriller out of a man sitting at a computer

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During a recent round of US appearances, Harris discussed the origins of the book, his well-known literary brother-in-law (Nick Hornby), and what might be in store for Cicero. Following are excerpts, edited for length and clarity.

On what inspired the new novel: "The pressure of events made it seem a good time to produce a book that had been in the back of my mind for more than 10 years. I quite like breaking up the Roman books with more modern books. I did it between volumes one and two and my publisher agreed it might be a good idea to do it between volumes two and three. To leave the Roman trilogy, to let it mature a little bit more. I’m getting a little bit older, Cicero gets older. It seems to work to do it that way. But I’m going to produce the third volume for publication next year."

On researching the book: It started really in 1999. When I read the Bill Gates book, “Business @ the Speed of Thought,” about the digital nervous system, I thought, “My God, that’s a good idea, what an Orwellian idea that is.” Sat on that idea for a long time and then the Lehman collapse happened (in 2008) and I thought, maybe the place to set this is the financial markets, which were increasingly dominated by computer technology. And I thought I’ll need a relatively small company that this is happening in.

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