Version Thirteen

By Martin Baker

A searing thriller that pitches the oil industry against the arms trade

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Publication date: October 2013

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Everything up to & including the party level + you (or someone you nominate) – becomes a character in Martin’s next Spendlove thriller…

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PLEASE NOTE: Version Thirteen is in production so your name can not be listed in the back of the book. However, you can pre-order a copy of the special Unbound Limited edition that will not be available in the shops.

Version Thirteen is my second thriller featuring Samuel Spendlove, an Oxford academic with a photographic memory who becomes an undercover agent.

My background is in financial journalism. The first book, Meltdown, was published in 2008, it got good notices and sold well, not least because it predicted and explained many of the elements of the global financial crisis that was to follow shortly afterwards.

I hope five years working as a script doctor have sharpened my storytelling skills and I’m really excited to announce Version Thirteen on the Unbound site.

It features some of the same characters from Meltdown – notably William Barton, master of a media empire spanning the globe, and Khan, a genius, super-secretive trader and self-styled master of the financial universe.

But whereas Meltdown was largely set in Paris and explored the madness and corruptibility of financial markets, Version Thirteen begins in Moscow and pits the world’s two most powerful lobbies against one another: the arms trade versus the oil industry.

Yavlinsky, a brilliant Russian scientist has created a piece of wonder-technology – a drilling process that uses the forces of supercavitation (the bubbles created by agitated water molecules). Named 'Version Thirteen', it enables oil explorers to take 40 per cent more oil out of the ground – it’s worth trillions .

But there’s a problem. Supercavitation is also the basis for highly sophisticated conventional weaponry - submarines and torpedoes that can travel at hundreds of kilometres per hour beneath the sea. Russian arms dealers have been selling this technology to Iran, amongst other countries, since the 1980s. If the revolutionary oil-drilling technology works, the supercavitation bubbles implode and the torpedoes and submarines are rendered useless.

Then Yavlinsky is found dead; the designs for the revolutionary supercavitational drilling process are stolen or destroyed. Someone has done a good job of suppressing this technology.

Except… One set of design plans does still exist – the one lodged in Samuel’s photographic memory. Suddenly, Samuel is the most wanted man in the world…

Why Unbound?

I’m keen to develop Version Thirteen into a movie and would welcome the interaction with readers as that process develops. Check out the extract and visit my shed for updates on my progress and draft chapters and book jacket artwork. I’d love for you all to be able to read it on the beach this summer…

For background on supercavitation and its defence applications, see:

Scientific American


For background on Meltdown see my website.


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ebook edition

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1st edition cloth-bound hardback, the ebook edition and your name in the back of the book

  • Martin Baker avatar

    Martin Baker

    I’m a novelist, scriptwriter and editor, and a judge of the Writers’ Revolution scriptwriting competition. I read law at Brasenose College, Oxford and qualified as a lawyer at a top City firm before pursuing a pluralistic career as a journalist.

    Earlier work: a bitingly satirical critique of market capitalism (A Fool And His Money, Orion) and a novel, (Meltdown, Pan Macmillan), a prescient financial thriller that predicted market collapse – described by one Hollywood agent as ‘The Firm meets Wall Street, meets The Bourne Identity’. Version Thirteen is the second in the Meltdown trilogy.

    I know the financial and economic coalface extremely well: From broadcaster at LBC, to City reporter at The Times, money correspondent at the Independent, investment editor at the International Herald Tribune in Paris, associate editor at Sunday Business, to editor-in-chief of the now-defunct UK arm of, I’ve witnessed mania, trading frenzy and financial folly in all its forms. I’ve met and interrogated eccentric entrepreneurs (including the BBC’s Dragons before they were famous), World Bank presidents, finance ministers, heads of state – the good, the great, and the not-so-great.

  • YAVLINSKY WAS EARLY. Samuel could see the tall figure in his dark-grey, military-style overcoat stomping up and down outside the main entrance of the Tretyakov Gallery in Pyatnitskaya Ulitsa. It was an easy, if chilly, walk from Samuel’s hotel. He was getting used to the cold now. In fact, he enjoyed it in a perverse sort of way.
  • Martin Baker has written 5 private updates. You can pledge to get access to them all.

    4th June 2016 Book Evening At The RAC: A Date For The Diary

    News item #2 of recent days: A diary date: Monday 3rd October. The Royal Automobile Book Club hosts an evening event (6.30pm onwards) featuring Version Thirteen.

    I will talk briefly on the process of writing, editing and the publication of the book, and then take questions from book-club members. My wife, Nicola Horlick, who acted as story consultant on Version Thirteen and its predecessor…

    24th May 2016 Of Canada, Hollywood And Human Skin...

    Hello again. Version Thirteen news bulletins arrive like the buses of popular cliché. After nothing for a while, suddenly three bits of (to my mind, interesting) news arrive at once.

    Today, I’m largely confining myself to item number one. Many thanks to Penguin Random House Canada, who’ve picked up V13, and have been publishing it since mid-May. I had to find out for myself when researching this…

    2nd June 2015 Kerviel The Scapegoat Fights Back - Free Copy Of Meltdown, The Novel That Predicted It All

    The "rogue trader" Jerome Kerviel is in the news again. I can say this with confidence, not least because I wrote about him in today's Independent. Kerviel's is a story I've followed, as the Indie piece indicates, for personal and professional reasons. The plot, location, framing and isolation of Samuel Spendlove, the hero of Meltdown and its sequel, Version Thirteen, were weirdly pre-figurative…

    12th May 2015 Closet Defence Mechanism?

    You couldn't make it up. And, of course, I didn't. Much better to leave it to real life, as reported by the Moscow Times

    "A Swedish peace group has devised a unique way of fending off unwanted naval intrusions after reports of Russian submarines entering the country's territorial waters last year — erecting a device that taps out in Morse code: 'This way if you are gay.'" reports the MT.

    27th November 2014 Encomia: Unbound's Business, Liz Garner's Editing - And A Christmas Offer!

    Hi folks - I recently did a little turn on Share Radio (my Northern roots showing there, I think). You have to join up to "Audioboom" (relatively painless) to listen to this. It's a few moments of Version Thirteen in all its "inside the velvet rope of the geo-political VIP room" glory, and some kind but richly merited words about Unbound, and especially my editor, the peerless Liz Garner.


    13th October 2014 Version Thirteen: Latest Amazon Reviews

    Many thanks to readers for some very kind notices for Version Thirteen. So far as I can see only two have definitely bought the book via Unbound. But that's irrelevant, really. I'm touched that readers would take the time and trouble to write and post their words - it feels like a compliment returned. I did work hard on the text, under the guidance of the truly brilliant Liz Garner - genius editor…

    24th September 2014 Crowdfunding Cock-Ups And Candies

    I have to say, I'm looking forward to a confessional evening on 16th October. Chaired by the fun and feisty Julia Groves of the UK Crowdfunding Association (UKCFA), there'll be a few of us getting up to talk briefly about the terrible errors they've made in the world of crowdfunding. 

    “We are a young industry, but fast moving, and with more than 9 million members across all the different crowdfunding…

    9th June 2014 A Little Something For The (Ukrainian) Week End

    So, here's something I hope you like. It's why and how good thrillers have to be rooted in the real world, I believe.

    I attach an (unproofed - couple of spellers in first page) piece on the reality of doing business in Russia. It's for a magazine that's just about to launch... The article throws light on the difficulties of doing business in Russia and with Russians on just about any level. See…

    17th March 2014 From Tiny Wee Audio-Visual Acorns...

    ...Great big movie oaks grow. Well, I hope so. 

    Unbound, bless them, commissioned Kris McManus to make the absolutely stonking  V13 video. I really so impressed by the way he made a sad, middle-aged bloke look almost interesting. And then we had a Christmas lunch in 2012 with John Mitchinson and a small hillside-full of bottles. Kris let it slip that he'd made a feature-length movie (one of two…

    18th February 2014 Rear-Admiral Spavinski Comes To The Fore

    Those nice chaps at TalkSPORT, Hawksbee and Jacobs, fell under the spell of the gorgeous, pouting Emily, Unbound's PR guru. One wave of her wand,plus a hint of intrigue as to the progression of Mr Spavin from revered ex-pro to a fictional naval figure frequenting seedy Moscow nightclubs, and away we went...

    26th November 2013 Admiral Spavinski

    I don't generally feel the need to adopt podium language. So usually, I don't. But I really am thrilled and I really am humbled that one of Version Thirteen's supporters decided to buy the right to name a minor character in the next Spendlove novel. As long as it's not Bill Clinton or Mother Theresa, I'm sure I'll be able to make it work without throwing readers out of the tale.

    And so it is with…

    13th November 2013 A V13 Teaser: Dr Jekyll Loves Soho House; Mr Hyde, however...

    I've been a member of Soho House for about five years, and I love it. I've had some of the best times ever at its clubhouses - notably in New York, the astonishingly successful Beach House in Miami, the amazing West Hollywood venue [playing pool looking over the electrified urban jewel box of LA is a wonderful experience], and occasionally having a really good breakfast at Little House in Mayfair…

    20th June 2013 If You Don't Travel In Business...

    ...and you'd be mad to, unless you've got a business that's paying for you, then you're likely to miss my love letter to Unbound, and all who sail in her. This commercial billet doux is currently to be found in Business Life, conveniently located in the magazine folders on the back of British Airways' business-class seats.



    6th June 2013 Things That Sub-Editors Do...

    Just back from Cannes, in search of good things - and also a development producer for Version Thirteen. I may even have found one. But we're talking omerta and horse heads again. More information, and a few pictures, later. Irony is, I just missed this guy on my recent trip to LA - but that's the way of things. Lots of travel, lots of talk...

    Anyway, I gave vent to my expressive urge out in the…

    5th May 2013 Techno Goth Punk - And Nastiness In Moscow

    I was asked recently whether I write to music. The answer is: "Yes - sometimes." 

    For the new novel, Version Thirteen, with its depictions of gritty Moscow nightclubs, street violence, prostitution, drug abuse, gangsterism and general fun of a type definitely not for all the family, I found the music of my friend David Berry’s band, Calling All Astronauts, very atmospheric. They describe themselves…

    12th April 2013 Wallace and Gromit's LA Vending Machine

    And so to LAX. We’re back in 2013 now, with Version Thirteen, not its predecessor, Meltdown. But we’re still stuck in a familiar place - the airport.

    This flight’s on the personal account. And the tight northern boy within has long pockets and short arms - so no fancy business class, just a flash of plastic and a longish (but never long enough) visit to BA’s business lounge.

    The beer and the sandwiches…

    21st March 2013 Opening in Moscow Clubland - A Dark Alley...

    This is the opening of Version Thirteen, more or less as it will be. A work progressed (if that sounds over-confident, sorry), rather than in progress.

    If Moscow doesn't scare you, isn't resonant with heaviness of its secrets, that means you've never been out of a night....



    Part One



    THERE HE WAS, a young man, yet already a creature of habit. Let him flirt with the girls by…

    7th March 2013 Shots Magazine

    The good people at Shots Magazine, a coterie of thrill-seeking readers, invited me to opine about life, love and gynaecology. OK, I give up: about Version Thirteen, the movie development process and publishing with Unbound.

    Read it here



    3rd March 2013 Chocolate Hob Nobs and Social Intercourse

    From Pitch Black, V13 in Hollywood

    So there I was, sitting in Scarlett Johansson’s blind spot - about three yards away, diagonally to her rear, about 4.30pm to her noon. I’d blagged my way into First Class, and now I was in stalking distance. 

    Actually, I was way too close for stalking. There was none of the comfortable distance that stalkers like to fill with seedy, delusional imaginings. This young…

    20th February 2013 Hollywood: It Does What It Says On The Sin

    The latest Samuel Spendlove novel, Version Thirteen, is coming along nicely.  But there’s a bit of work to do - important, but not structurally significant.

    Let me amplify this straight away so as to avoid confusion. I’m not afflicted by optimism like it’s some sort of congenital disease. For example, I’ve never described the Second World War as a bit of a ruck. And I wouldn’t have seen the pagan…

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