by Gary Weiss ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 23, 2022
A compellingly readable story about a con artist who “epitomized the duality of the American Dream.”
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
Page Count: 336
Review Posted Online: June 3, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022
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by Walter Isaacson ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 12, 2023
Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.
Awards & Accolades
New York Times Bestseller
A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.
To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.
Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023
Page Count: 688
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023
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Well-told and admonitory.
Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.
Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.Well-told and admonitory.
Pub Date: June 1, 2006
Page Count: 320
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006
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