A compellingly readable story about a con artist who “epitomized the duality of the American Dream.”

RETAIL GANGSTER

THE INSANE, REAL-LIFE STORY OF CRAZY EDDIE

A chronicle of consumer electronics and corruption in the second half of the 20th century.

Investigative journalist Weiss reveals the mechanics of the corrupt retail empire of “Crazy Eddie” Antar (1947-2016). Eddie grew up in New York City’s Syrian Jewish community and dropped out of school at 15. He worked short stints in tourist traps before moving into electronics sales, where he made profits despite rock-bottom prices through acquiring his wares wholesale and skimming the sales tax from purchases, socking the unreported cash away in various hiding places, a process “known among Syrians” as nehkdi. Eddie christened the first Crazy Eddie store in 1973, and by the mid-1970s, he was establishing himself as the economic head of the family, which displeased his father, Sam M. Antar. As the business grew, bolstered by shrill and memorable marketing (“HIS PRICES ARE INSANE!”), so did the scale of the family corruption. In 1979, Sam “Sammy” E. Antar, Eddie’s cousin and the family lawyer, got his “Golden Idea”: They should take the company public and gradually dial back the amount of nehkdi to inflate the appearance of their profits. The scheme was working, drawing praise for the company, but behind the scenes, it was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain the facade of a highly successful, aboveboard operation—and, at its height, no one benefitted from the fraud more than Eddie. The story involves a massive cast of characters, from generations of the Antar family to Eddie’s scorned first wife, Deborah Rosen, and a slew of federal agents. Weiss paints an intricate portrait of greed, aspiration, and complicated family ties bolstered by recollections from Sammy, whose eventual cooperation helped secure convictions for Eddie and other Antar associates. The scheme can feel almost nostalgic following more recent financial scandals and the collapse of physical retail, but Weiss also emphasizes its very real consequences: Eddie “wasn’t hated, but he hurt people.”

A compellingly readable story about a con artist who “epitomized the duality of the American Dream.”

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-306-92455-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: today

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IN COLD BLOOD

"There's got to be something wrong with somebody who'd do a thing like that." This is Perry Edward Smith, talking about himself. "Deal me out, baby...I'm a normal." This is Richard Eugene Hickock, talking about himself. They're as sick a pair as Leopold and Loeb and together they killed a mother, a father, a pretty 17-year-old and her brother, none of whom they'd seen before, in cold blood. A couple of days before they had bought a 100 foot rope to garrote them—enough for ten people if necessary. This small pogrom took place in Holcomb, Kansas, a lonesome town on a flat, limitless landscape: a depot, a store, a cafe, two filling stations, 270 inhabitants. The natives refer to it as "out there." It occurred in 1959 and Capote has spent five years, almost all of the time which has since elapsed, in following up this crime which made no sense, had no motive, left few clues—just a footprint and a remembered conversation. Capote's alternating dossier Shifts from the victims, the Clutter family, to the boy who had loved Nancy Clutter, and her best friend, to the neighbors, and to the recently paroled perpetrators: Perry, with a stunted child's legs and a changeling's face, and Dick, who had one squinting eye but a "smile that works." They had been cellmates at the Kansas State Penitentiary where another prisoner had told them about the Clutters—he'd hired out once on Mr. Clutter's farm and thought that Mr. Clutter was perhaps rich. And this is the lead which finally broke the case after Perry and Dick had drifted down to Mexico, back to the midwest, been seen in Kansas City, and were finally picked up in Las Vegas. The last, even more terrible chapters, deal with their confessions, the law man who wanted to see them hanged, back to back, the trial begun in 1960, the post-ponements of the execution, and finally the walk to "The Corner" and Perry's soft-spoken words—"It would be meaningless to apologize for what I did. Even inappropriate. But I do. I apologize." It's a magnificent job—this American tragedy—with the incomparable Capote touches throughout. There may never have been a perfect crime, but if there ever has been a perfect reconstruction of one, surely this must be it.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 1965

ISBN: 0375507906

Page Count: 343

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1965

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An essential account of a chaotic administration that, Woodward makes painfully clear, is incapable of governing.

RAGE

That thing in the air that is deadlier than even your “strenuous flus”? Trump knew—and did nothing about it.

The big news from veteran reporter Woodward’s follow-up to Fear has been widely reported: Trump was fully aware at the beginning of 2020 that a pandemic loomed and chose to downplay it, causing an untold number of deaths and crippling the economy. His excuse that he didn’t want to cause a panic doesn’t fly given that he trades in fear and division. The underlying news, however, is that Trump participated in this book, unlike in the first, convinced by Lindsey Graham that Woodward would give him a fair shake. Seventeen interviews with the sitting president inform this book, as well as extensive digging that yields not so much news as confirmation: Trump has survived his ineptitude because the majority of Congressional Republicans go along with the madness because they “had made a political survival decision” to do so—and surrendered their party to him. The narrative often requires reading between the lines. Graham, though a byword for toadyism, often reins Trump in; Jared Kushner emerges as the real power in the West Wing, “highly competent but often shockingly misguided in his assessments”; Trump admires tyrants, longs for their unbridled power, resents the law and those who enforce it, and is quick to betray even his closest advisers; and, of course, Trump is beholden to Putin. Trump occasionally emerges as modestly self-aware, but throughout the narrative, he is in a rage. Though he participated, he said that he suspected this to be “a lousy book.” It’s not—though readers may wish Woodward had aired some of this information earlier, when more could have been done to stem the pandemic. When promoting Fear, the author was asked for his assessment of Trump. His reply: “Let’s hope to God we don’t have a crisis.” Multiple crises later, Woodward concludes, as many observers have, “Trump is the wrong man for the job.”

An essential account of a chaotic administration that, Woodward makes painfully clear, is incapable of governing.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982131-73-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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