From the disaster-thriller author of Heat, The Swarm, etc., an exhaustively researched but disappointingly drab retelling of the Robert Vesco story, whose chief distinction is setting the rogues-to-riches record straight on some taken-for-granted points. During the go-go years of the 1960's, Vesco (a high-school dropout who turns 52 in December) built International Controls Corp., a rickety little conglomerate noted more for its founder's wheeling and dealing than success in the high-tech marketplace. For an encore, Vesco muscled in on Bernie Cornfeld's IOS--the troubled management company for offshore mutual funds beyond the regulatory reach of a frustrated SEC. Having cut a few too many corners and run afoul of US election laws, Vesco chose to go into an itinerant exile, leapfrogging around the Caribbean and Central America. Thanks to uncritical press coverage of inflated SEC claims, the fugitive financier and a half dozen virtually anonymous associates are widely believed to have looted IOS coffers of $224 million. As Herzog shows, however, their take was far less. On the other hand, he discloses Vesco has almost certainly trafficked in narcotics, acted as a middleman for Libya, and otherwise blotted his copybook. At last report, Vesco was alive, paranoid, and possibly broke in Havana, where he and the author had a brief, inconclusive encounter in mid-1986 (subsequently chronicled in Fortune magazine). Ultimately, Herzog's dispassionately detailed account of Vesco's villanies and vagabondage rings true but hollow, perhaps because there's more pathos or bathos than tragedy in the fate of its antihero.