McClintick's post-mortem of a truly epic bubble scheme is an authentic and intriguing view of the tax-shelter subculture, oil-drilling division. But more than that, it's a primer on the dynamics of cupidity. There are just a few heroes, lots of knaves, and flocks of gullible sophisticates. Superstars of the worlds of law, finance, industry, and show biz (Jack Benny, Candice Bergen, Walter Matthau, Barbra Streisand, Andy Williams, among others) and a cast of thousands of investors, all play supporting roles to Robert S. Tripper, proprietor of one of the most complex and massive swindles in history. The old Ponzi con is brought to new heights with the calculated addition of phony stock deals, improper commissions to attorneys and accountants, inflated projections of profits, overselling of participations to eager investors, rake-offs through related corporations, and disproportionate payments to those with identical investments. The early victims who were able to yell loudest got more of their money returned than those less audible. Farmers' irrigation pipes were painted fanciful colors and visitors were convinced that tax-favored hydrocarbons rushed through. Worthless ""gifts"" were made to charities for valuable tax deductions. The whole thing involved investments totaling over $140 million over eighteen years. Losses exceeded $100 million, most of which was eventually borne by the US Treasury. There's a generous use of documents dating from the start of the story to the mismanaged denouement. McClintick, who covered the swindle for the Wall Street Journal, lays out the whole intricate plot with careful clarity. An educational and sardonic text.