Such is the generally obscure status of bonds, and fixed income generally within the UK, that obtaining any kind of basic information aimed at retail investors about such an important asset class in the world market is almost absurdly difficult. Until now, that is, with the publication of former-Investors Chronicle columnist Mark Glowrey's snappily titled book: "The Sterling Bonds and Fixed Income Handbook: A practical guide for investors and advisers." This book is, as far as we can tell, the only comprehensive and readable guide to bond investing currently available and, as such, is deserving of reference status. There are a few specialist titles aimed at fund managers, but they are written by Americans so we can discount them.
Mark's own experience in the bond markets comes as a former skivvy to jobbers in the days before "Big Bang" changed the character of the City. It sounds an agreeably Wodehousian world with proper lunches, everyone wearing pin-stripes and bond prices quoted in fractions. Overall, he seems to have had a good 1980s and eventually worked his way up to become a GEMM (Gilt-edged Market Maker) before leaving to go into journalism where he was one of the few writers to consistently offer informed coverage of the bond market.
The work itself is split into three parts that run from a very basic explanation of bonds, through to the mechanics of the bond markets and then the various kinds of often quite complex securities that are available. He ends by explaining the more sophisticated ways of building a bond portfolio and how to use trading techniques that invoke the mysteries of technical analysis. In short, Mark walks the reader gently through the process of understanding fixed income much in the same way that a Hayne's Guide can tell you how to dismantle a Ford Cortina i.e. simply, easily and with plenty of illustrations.
Writing for a living certainly helps the book which, although it could have used the occasional jail break, or perhaps a passionate encounter with a femme fatale to liven up the chapter about index-linked gilts, is never less than readable and well-written. If you are expecting Liar's Poker, you'll be disappointed, but for anyone with even a remote curiosity about how bonds work and how to trade them, then the tone is pitch perfect for both the average investor and the sophisticated trader.