Ugly Americans

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9780060575007: Ugly Americans

Following his New York Times bestseller, Bringing Down the House, Mezrich tells another extraordinary true story of money, risk and life lived close to the edge. John Malcolm is barely 30, a high school football hero and Princeton graduate, he controls a hedge fund worth $50m. In the '90's dozens of elite young American graduates made millions in hedge funds in the far East, beating the Japanese at their own game, riding the crashing waves of the Asian markets and winning. Failure meant not only bankruptcy and disgrace a la Nick Leeson, but potentially even death - at the hands of the Japanese YakuzaUgly Americans tells Malcolm's story, and that of others like him, in a cross between Mezrich's own Bringing Down the House and Michael Lewis' Liar's Poker.

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Review:

Ugly Americans documents the "Wild East" of the mid-1990s, where young, brilliant and hypercompetitive traders became "hedge fund cowboys", manipulating loopholes in an outdated and inefficient Asian financial system to rake in millions. Using a concept called arbitrage, they made their fortunes mainly on minute shifts in stocks being sold on the Nikkei, the Japanese stock market, collapsing banks and nearly bankrupting the Japanese economy in the process. Other schemes were also concocted, most of which were technically legal, though certainly unethical. This true story revolves around "John Malcolm", who, in exchange for anonymity, agreed to give Ben Mezrich all the access and information he needed to write this book. As a recent Princeton graduate in the mid-1990s, Malcolm accepted an undefined job offer from an American expatriate in Japan to work in the investments field. Though he had no prior experience, he facilitated 25 million dollars worth of trades on his first day on the job, and it just got more exciting from there. He soon joined a small group of expatriates, all in their 20s and mostly Ivy League graduates, who lived like rock stars, thriving on the stress and excitement of their jobs to create their own steroid versions of the American Dream half a world away.

Mezrich tells this riveting story well, incorporating elements of the culture into his narrative, including the infamous and pervasive Japanese "Water Trade", or sex business, romantic intrigue and even run-ins with the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia. Though there is little real analysis of their financial dealings and how they ultimately changed the rules of finance in Asia, this entertaining page turner does offer a glimpse into a world little explored in print until now. --Shawn Carkonen, Amazon.com

Review:

"The author of the compelling Bringing Down the House ... returns with another vivid true story ... Any movie shouldn't lack for colour" ( GQ)

"When the movie rights to a novel are snapped up by Hollywood A-lister Kevin Spacey, you know its something special. And Ugly Americans most definitely is ... An incredible true story ... it's impossible not to be amazed and absorbed into this parallel universe where East meets West, gangsters meet cowboys and everyone is just an earthquake away from disaster" ( Scottish Daily Record)

"The propulsive narrative fairly roars "guilty pleasure." Yet Ugly Americans is revelatory, a rush that leaves the reader reeling but reflective" ( Philadelphia Inquirer)

"[Contains] all the ingredients of a great narrative - a main character the reader can relate to, an appealing love interest, money, danger, the need for acceptance, suspense ... In a truly engaging look at how an innocent who thinks he knows the world does actually end up understanding a small but significant piece of it, Mezrich manages to incorporate solid journalism into a narrative that just plain works" ( Publisher’s Weekly)

"A high-octane passion play pitting a young man's ambition against his sense of humanity" ( Oregonian)

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