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RETAIL GANGSTER

THE INSANE, REAL-LIFE STORY OF CRAZY EDDIE

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

ISBN: 978-0-306-92455-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

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

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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