A damningly detailed rundown on the predatory conspirators whose willful violations of securities law and ethical standards gave Wall Street a deservedly bad name during the takeover frenzy of the 1980's. Wall Street Journal editor Stewart (The Partners, The Prosecutors) was a beat reporter for much of the dirty decade. As one result, he has firsthand knowledge of the carriage-trade criminals who made a mockery of free enterprise during one of the century's greatest bull markets. Focusing on four major culprits- -Ivan Boesky, Dennis Levine, Michael Milken, and Martin Siegel--the Pulitzer-winning reporter offers unsparing accounts of the havoc they wreaked on their own as well as in concert with wide-ranging rings of accomplices. Nor, it seems, was the performance of the SEC and US Justice Department particularly praiseworthy. Indeed, the author leaves little doubt that regulatory authorities and enforcement officials were usually overmatched and outmaneuvered. Stewart nonetheless devotes most of his attention to the villains of the piece, who participated in and organized the era's antisocial daisy chains. Levine, for example, latched on to Boesky, who, in need of inside information to reduce the risk of his high- stakes arbitrage trading, had lured investment banker Siegel into the game. In turn, Boesky became a pawn of Milken's, a control freak whose financial acumen was exceeded only by his talent for plotting and organizing illicit buy/sell networks. The author puts paid to any lingering notion the junk-bond king was unjustly hounded by vengeful agents of the federal government. In addition, he makes clear that, but for stubborn pride and hubris, the man who leveraged corporate American could have cut a favorable deal that greatly reduced his ten-year prison sentence. A sorry and cautionary tale of world-class scofflaws, brilliantly reported by a savvy journalist with a sure sense of right and wrong.