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Alumnus Ventures Into the Underworld
Posted 04/07/2014 11:23AM

Scott Walker is a UWC-USA alumnus and “a fugitive from the quick sands of finance” who is fighting for survival in a world filled with hit men and hackers. Framed and betrayed, Scott races around the globe and ultimately finds himself at a familiar place: the Montezuma Castle, where all of the drama of his life reaches a climax.

At this point, you may be wondering: Scott who?

Scott is the fictional invention of Luca Pesaro ’90, whose new novel, Zero Alternative, was released in April. In addition to creating a lead character who shares his UWC-USA heritage, Luca has set the book’s final scene on campus in the pre-renovation Montezuma Castle—a place he spent many hours exploring as a student.

“When I was at UWC-USA, the castle was such an awesome, forbidden place,” Luca says. “It was massive and spooky. It felt like a special place that deserved to be immortalized.”

Zero Alternative is Luca’s first novel to be written and published in English, and he couldn’t be more excited. After a nearly 20-year career in finance, Luca is now a full-time writer – a passion that he first nourished as a student at UWC-USA.

“I wrote my first novel in the summer between my first and second year,” he recalls. “It was published years later when I was completing my master’s degree.”

Luca studied economics at London School of Economics and received his master's degree at Bocconi University in his home country of Italy. After graduating, he was quickly snatched up by J.P. Morgan. Marriage and two kids followed, and Luca found himself fully entrenched in work and family life. Writing took a back seat.

But then fate stepped in. Luca was working in equities at the Royal Bank of Scotland when it shut down his division last year. He had to make a decision: find another job as a trader, or finish his novel. He followed the novelist path. “I still enjoy economics and finance, and if I have to, I will go back to it. But if I have a choice, I’d rather be a writer.”

Zero Alternative has been described as “a gripping thriller rich in action and exotic locations, with flawed, complex characters that struggle in a world full of shadows.” The central theme, Luca says, is that despite the financial crisis, nothing has changed. “Your money is not safe,” he says. “Your country is not safe. This book is about what happens behind the closed doors of the financial world, where there are a few people who hold lots of power.”

Readers can sample the book at Luca’s website and you can enter to win an autographed copy at goodreads.com

Luca has lived most of his adult life in the United Kingdom and the U.S. (he currently resides in London), so writing in English was not a stretch. In fact, he says writing in Italian is more of a challenge these days. Luca gave his mother—who does not speak English—a synopsis of the book that he wrote in Italian. “She said, ‘your story is interesting, but your Italian is terrible!’” Luca and his wife Francesca speak Italian at home, but he says the “flowery language” doesn’t work for the type of thrillers he writes. “You need to keep a certain rhythm,” Luca says.

Influenced by writers such as Stephen King and Daniel Silva, Luca is firmly rooted in the thriller genre. His next book is a Bourne Identity-type of story that focuses on a game of chess and two very powerful people. He hopes to finish it next year.

“Being a writer allows me to lead a more civilized pace of life,” Luca says. “I feel like I’m on holiday, even though I’m working all the time.”

Meet Mzwakithi Shongwe, '12, who came to UWC-USA from Swaziland.

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