three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
12-Sept-Oct-2004
By: 
Ben Mezrich
user_rating: 
0

The True Story of the Ivy League Cowboys Who Raided the Asian Markets for Millions

A-UglyAmericansJohn Malcolm, a young Princeton graduate, wanted to rise to riches faster than the corporate ladder would allow. Dean Carney, an unscrupulous fellow Princetonian with a reputation for everything from meth addiction to vampirism, was there to help. Together, they traveled to Tokyo and made their fortunes off the Asian stock market crash of the 1990s, using guerrilla stock-trading tactics Carney called "Arbitrage with a Battle Axe." The names have been changed in this story of financial sleight-of-hand, but Mezrich swears the events are true. These events include enough run-ins with Japanese Yakuza gangsters and debauchery in Korean brothels to populate a thriller novel—which is exactly what Mezrich used to write.
William Morrow. 288 pages. $24.95.
ISBN: 006057500X

Dallas Morning News 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The conversations [Mezrich] recounts … are almost too perfect; the scene-setting too vividly cinematic. But he slips in several first-person chapters about his reporting that bolster his bonafides and give the gasping reader a chance to breathe." Rick Holter

Oregonian 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Ugly Americans is, at its core, a high-octane passion play pitting a young man’s ambition against his sense of humanity. … It feels genuine, but there’s also little doubt Mezrich is the book world’s reigning cowboy of creative nonfiction." Joe Kurmaskie

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram 3.5 of 5 Stars
"If Ugly Americans reads like a novel, that’s understandable. Mezrich has written six novels, and he has brought the skills of a fiction writer and an investigative reporter to bear in this work of nonfiction." Cecil Johnson

Critical Summary

Depending on your level of credulity, you may have trouble taking the subtitle of Ugly Americans seriously. Whether the story of Mezrich’s Ivy League cowboys and their influence on the Asian stock market collapse is entirely true is something only he knows—and some reviewers doubt it. However, that doesn’t stop most from enjoying the ride. Mezrich (author of Bringing Down the House) sets a breakneck pace, and the outrageous exploits of his subjects make for entertaining reading. Perhaps the sometimes fictional feel of Ugly Americans simply testifies to Mezrich’s narrative skill; in any case, once you’re caught up in this tale of financial derring-do, accuracy may not matter.

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