Columbus discovered America, Marconi the wireless--and Ponzi discovered money. Perfect for a musical comedy, this is the story of the little Italian swindler Charles Ponzi whose Chaplinesque twinkle took the nation for upwards of 20 million dollars (it was impossible to tally exactly, so slapdash was his surreal bookkeeping). Dunn chooses to write a novelized form of biography, but sticks to the facts, uses actual photographs and produces a general effect of nonfiction. There really isn't much need to invent anything about him--he's so winning a con man. And his racket was so successful that Ponzi's swindle is now eponymous. The gigantic hoax took the form of fast return at enormous interest for early investors who were paid out of capital that came from later investors. As Ponzi quickly paid off original loans, he suggested that reinvestors stood to make fortunes. Thousands of little people dug hidden savings from under mattresses and out of tin cans, ran to his shabby office and stuffed bills over the counter. He could not hire clerks fast enough to count the millions, which lay about in suitcases, filling cabinets, waste baskets. His scheme was based on U.S. postal-reply coupons bought at low prices abroad and redeemed at high rates in the States. He was a genius with figures, able to snow even Hanover Trust into selling him a controlling interest in its bank. When finally exposed by the press, he couldn't pay off, was jailed--and later started in all over again, unsuccessfully. Ingratiating deviltry.