Oline H. Cogdill

grippandojames daughterAinsley James Grippando is known for his hard-edged thrillers, and readers will have to wait until February for his 25th novel, Most Dangerous Place, which continues his series about Miami lawyer Jack Swyteck.

But Grippando’s latest work is his first novella, and for this book, he has a co-author, of sorts.

The Penny Jumper introduces Ainsley Grace, a brilliant young astrophysicist who writes complex codes for Wall Street traders to pay off her college debt. The job takes a turn when she discovers the secrets of ruthless power brokers.

There is a real Ainsley Grace: Grippando’s daughter, who gave him the idea for the novella. Ainsley Grace Grippando isn’t in college yet—she’s a sixth grader.

A lovely photo of Ainsley Grace and James Grippando is at left; the photo was taken by Tiffany Grippando, Ainsley's mother and James' wife.

But the real Ainsley Grace has had a lifelong interest in science. At age three, she told her parents she wanted to grow up to build the world’s largest telescope.

His daughter’s interest inspired Grippando to research what exactly an astrophysicist is.

“Then a weird fact caught my eye: over 2,000 astrophysicists are currently working on Wall Street. They create the algorithms that identify trading patterns and allow Wall Street’s most profitable firms to exploit discrepancies in price that exist for only a matter of microseconds,” Grippando said in an email.

“More than 70 percent of trading on stock exchanges is now done by computers, and the big winners are the high-speed traders who can buy and sell in the blink of an eye. This kind of speed and time synchronization, it turns out, is right up the astrophysicist’s alley,” he added.

Ainsley Grace has joined her father at several book signing events.

“Early on, we knew Ainsley was special,” said the proud father. “Three months before her third birthday, we were at a Thanksgiving gathering at a friend’s house. The host offered the kids cupcakes. The decorative icing on each cupcake was unique: a pilgrim, a turkey, or some other symbol of the holiday.

“The host bent over and presented the tray to Ainsley. “Sweetie, would you like the CHOC—OH—LIT, or the VAH—NIL—LAH?” she asked, thinking that her overworked enunciation might help Ainsley understand. ‘I’ll have the cornucopia,’ said Ainsley, using a five-syllable word that the old children had never heard in their lives,” said Grippando, adding that he used that true-life story in the opening chapter of The Penny Jumper.

The Penny Jumper also includes other works by Grippando. “Death, Cheated” is a Jack Swyteck short story he wrote years ago, when he and his editor were deciding whether Jack—introduced to readers in The Pardon (1994)—should return as a serial character. It is the only Jack Swyteck written in first person; the series is in third person.

Also included is “Green Eyed Lady,” a short story featuring FBI Agent Andie Henning, who is now part of the Jack Swyteck series.

Grippando also has included an essay that always makes me cry. “Sammy and Me” is a short nonfiction tribute to Grippando’s four-legged companion for his first 10 novels. This heartfelt tribute first appeared in newspapers after Sammy’s passing in 2006. It’s tailor-made for those of us who love our pets.

And here’s a little bit of family trivia about Grippando’s novels. Each has been dedicated to Tiffany, his wife.