Saturday, February 25, 2012

Dark Pool: Where has all the Money Gone?

      Ponzi schemes are amazing. Some are barely legal because they 'sell' a 'product. You've seem them - send $5.00 for this kit and we will show you how to make thousands, all you have to do is have four friends sell this kit to four of their friends who sell to four of their friends who sell...Well you get the idea. Each person who sells something below you ends up sending you a piece of the pie. Man on top reaps huge benefits, man on bottom loses shirt. Some schemes are illegal - send one dollar to the first name on this list of four names, take that name off and yours to the bottom, pass off to ten of your friends and pull in the dough! Then some are not only illegal but downright evil - invest with me and I will make you 30% on your money for as long as you stay. The owner of the scheme makes off with all the dollars and you get left with nothing but foreclosure notices.

       So is it any wonder that someone would latch onto this and write a novel with a Ponzi scheme in the center? But with the novel Dark Pool by Helen Hanson there is a wicked twist. Not even the man who created the scheme has the money! Where is the money? What does some kid who just spent six months in jail for hacking have to do with it? Is the man with Alzheimer's faking it because he knows about the money? Should Maggie trust the luscious Russian who just moved in across the street or is he there to kill her?  Meanwhile, across town, Kurt Meyers has to find the money O'Mara has stolen from people investing in his Ponzi scheme but soon finds the Russian mob breathing down his neck.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

On Becoming Twain

Lighting Out for the Territory:
How Samuel Clemens Headed West and Became Mark Twain

by Roy Morris, Jr.
Simon & Schuster, 2010
America Collection
ISBN: 978-1-4165-9866-4
ISBN 978-1-4165-9867-1 (pbk)
ISBN 978-1-4391-0137-7 (ebook)

There are lots of books about Mark Twain, about his travels, his lectures, his short stories and books, but this one has an added element.  Roy Morris, Jr is, in addition to being a biographer, a former news reporter, and an author of 5 other books about the Civil War and Post-Civil War years.  In fact, there is another book about Clemens, by another author, published in 1998 with the same title.  This one, however, has more of the historical context of the times, especially the Civil War influence on Clements' life.  Morris also attempts to identify the facts by checking other historical sources, because so much of the Clemens mystique came from the “stretched” stories of his life found in his autobiography and writings.

Morris is able to present clearly the background against which Samuel Clemens' life was lived.  His most formative years were the ramp-up to the Civil War, where even in Hannibal, Missouri, the battle lines were beginning to form, folks were arguing hotly about the issues, some even sparking violent confrontations.  When the war finally arrived, Clemens was a riverboat captain, suddenly facing the possibility of having his boat or  his person, or both, commandeered to serve either side in the fray, which was a terrifying thought for someone really not cut out for politics or soldiering. He headed West.