Book ARC Review ~ Retail Gangster

Retail Gangster: The Insane, Real Life Story of Crazy Eddie

by Gary Weiss


Synopsis – A biography of the spectacular rise and fall of Eddie Antar, better known as “Crazy Eddie,” whose home electronics empire changed the world even as it turned out to be one of the biggest business scams of all time

Back in the fall of 2016 we heard the news about the passing of Eddie Antar, “Crazy Eddie” as he was known to millions of people, the man behind the successful chain of electronic stores and one of the most iconic ad campaigns in history. Few things evoke the New York of a particular era the way “Crazy Eddie! His prices are insaaaaane!” does. The journalist Herb Greenberg called his death the “end of an era” and that couldn’t be more true. What’s insane is that his story has never been told.

Before Enron, before Madoff, before The Wolf of Wall Street, Eddie Antar’s corruption was second to none. The difference was that it was a street franchise, a local place that was in the blood stream of everyone’s daily life in the 1970s and early ’80s. And Eddie pulled it off with a certain style, an in your face blue collar chutzpah. Despite the fact that then U.S. Attorney Michael Chertoff called him “the Darth Vader of capitalism” after the extent of the fraud was revealed, one of the largest SEC frauds in American history after Crazy Eddie’s stores went public in 1984, Eddie was talked about fondly by the people who worked for him. They still do–there are myriads of ex-Crazy Eddie employee web pages that still attract fans, and the Crazy Eddie fraud scheme is now taught in every business school across the United States.  

Many years have passed since the franchise went down in spectacular fashion but Crazy Eddie’s moment has endured the way that iconic brands and characters do–one only need Google the media outpouring that accompanied his death. Maybe it’s because it crystallized everything about 1970s New York almost perfectly, the merchandise and rise of consumer electronics (stereos!), the ads (cheesy!), the money (cash!). In Retail Gangster, investigative journalist Gary Weiss takes readers behind the scenes of one of the most unbelievable business scam stories of all time, a story spanning continents and generations, reaffirming the old adage that the truth is often stranger than fiction.


My thoughts – I was somewhat aware of the Crazy Eddie type advertising back in the day. But I didn’t know about the story of the electronic business and what it really was, namely a scam run by the owners. It reached some amazing highs, but eventually imploded. Wonderfully researched and an interesting read. I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.


RETAIL GANGSTER

Publisher – Hachette Books – 336 pages

Publication date – Aug 23rd, 2022

My rating – 4/5 STARS


About the author – Gary Weiss has been an investigative journalist and author covering corruption of Wall Street for over 40 years. His pieces have been essential reading ever since Warren Buffett cited his Business Week bond trading scandal article before Congress in 1991. Born and raised in the Bronx, Gary remains an essential NYC fixture. 


Book Review ~ A Killer by Design

A Killer by Design: Murderers, Mindhunters, and My Quest to Decipher the Criminal Mind

by Ann Burgess


Synopsis:
A breathtakingly vivid behind-the-scenes look into the creation of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit and the evolution of criminal profiling, written by the pioneering forensic nurse who transformed the way the FBI studies, profiles, and catches serial killer.
 
Lurking beneath the progressive activism and sex positivity in the 1970-80s, a dark undercurrent of violence rippled across the American landscape. With reported cases of sexual assault and homicide on the rise, the FBI created a specialized team—the “Mindhunters” better known as the Behavioral Science Unit—to track down the country’s most dangerous criminals. And yet narrowing down a seemingly infinite list of potential suspects seemed daunting at best and impossible at worst—until Dr. Ann Wolbert Burgess stepped on the scene.

In A Killer By Design, Burgess reveals how her pioneering research on sexual assault and trauma caught the attention of the FBI, and steered her right into the middle of a chilling serial murder investigation in Nebraska. Over the course of the next two decades, she helped the budding unit identify, interview, and track down dozens of notoriously violent offenders, including Ed Kemper (“The Co-Ed Killer”), Dennis Rader (“(“BTK”), Henry Wallace (“The Taco Bell Strangler”), Jon Barry Simonis (“The Ski-Mask Rapist”), and many others. As one of the first women trailblazers within the FBI’s hallowed halls, Burgess knew many were expecting her to crack under pressure and recoil in horror—but she was determined to protect future victims at any cost. This book pulls us directly into the investigations as she experienced them, interweaving never-before-seen interview transcripts and crime scene drawings alongside her own vivid recollections to provide unprecedented insight into the minds of deranged criminals and the victims they left behind. Along the way, Burgess also paints a revealing portrait of a formidable institution on the brink of a seismic scientific and cultural reckoning—and the men forced to reconsider everything they thought they knew about crime.

Haunting, heartfelt, and deeply human, A Killer By Design forces us to confront the age-old question that has long plagued our criminal justice system: “What drives someone to kill, and how can we stop them?”


My thoughts: I really enjoyed reading about Dr. Ann Burgess and how her serious work on researching sexual violence eventually got her to working with the FBI. She helped refine their work on interviewing serial killers so that it would be more useful. Burgess also shares her experiences on different cases during her time with the FBI in the early days of profiling. Good history here and a woman’s perspective on the subjects for a change. For true crime lovers. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Ann Wolbert Burgess, and the publisher.


A Killer by Design


Publisher: Hachette Books – 320 pages
Publication: Dec 7th, 2021
My rating: 5/5 STARS


About the author: Dr. Ann Burgess, APRN, FAAN, is a leading forensic and psychiatric nurse who worked with the FBI for over two decades. She is currently a professor at the Boston College Connell School of Nursing, where she teaches graduate courses in forensic nursing. She has received countless honors and accolades for her groundbreaking research, including the “Living Legend” award from the American Academy of Nursing. She lives in Boston, MA.

Steven Constantine (cowriter) is the assistant director of marketing and communications at the Boston College Connell School of Nursing. He lives in Boston, MA.


BOOK REVIEW ~ The Devil’s Harvest

The Devil’s Harvest: A Ruthless Killer, a Terrorized Community, and the Search for Justice in CA’s Central Valley


 

Description:
A gut-wrenching and timely deep-dive into the unbelievable true story of Jose Martinez, a drug cartel hitman responsible for dozens of murders across the forgotten farmlands of California’s Central Valley, The Devil’s Harvest sheds light on how the criminal justice system fails our country’s most vulnerable immigrant communities.
On the surface, 58-year-old Jose Martinez may look like your average neighbor, mechanic, and devoted father. However, unbeknownst to his many loved ones, Martinez worked as a drug cartel debt collector and hitman for over 35 years, terrorizing the poor, rural, immigrant communities of California’s Central Valley and beyond. Having confessed to three dozen murders, he is one of the most prolific serial killers in American history–along the lines of Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and even H.H. Holmes. And yet until he voluntarily turned himself in, Martinez was virtually unstoppable.

How did Martinez manage to evade law enforcement for so long with little more than a slap on the wrist? Because he understood a dark truth about the criminal justice system: if you kill the right people–people who are poor, who aren’t white, and who don’t have anyone to speak up for them–you can get away with it.

Melding the pacing and suspense of a true crime thriller with the rigor of top-notch investigative journalism, THE DEVIL’S HARVEST follows award-winning reporter Jessica Garrison’s relentless search for the truth as she traces the life of this merciless assassin, the cops who chased him, and the families of his many victims. Drawing upon decades of case files, interrogation transcripts, on the ground reporting, and Martinez’s own handwritten journals, THE DEVIL’S HARVEST uses a gripping and often shocking narrative to dig into one of the most important moral questions haunting our politically divided nation today: why do some deaths–and some lives–matter more than others?


 

My thoughts:   This story about the deadly killer held my interest as it followed him and the men who were trying to catch him. He was really slick at getting away with his various crimes for a long time. He could travel almost anywhere he needed to go to do a job for someone, with no one the wiser. He’d go in and take care of the hit and be gone before the body even began cooling. But there is more to Martinez than just being a brutal killer. He is also a man who is involved in his family. While he may not always be faithful to his wives, he is always there for his children and his mother through the decades. I found this to be an interesting true crime book that turned out to be more current that I realized. Advanced electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Jessica Garrison, and the publisher.


 

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Publisher:  Hachette Books – 336 pages
Publication:  Aug 4th, 2020
My rating:  4/5 Stars


 

The Author- Jessica Garrison, who has won numerous national awards as a writer and an editor, is a member of Buzzfeed News’ investigations team, based in San Francisco.


 

BOOK REVIEW ~ The Third Rainbow Girl

The Third Rainbow Girl: The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia

 

This unusual blend of true crime and memoir is rather quirky and I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. There are places it felt a bit sideswiped to me, then I’d go back to enjoying it once again. The true crime parts were good, as was the history of the state and the research. The two women, Vicki Durian, 26, and Nancy Santomero, 19, were headed to a Rainbow Gathering festival in Pocahontas County, West Virginia, near the Virginia border. They never made it, having been murdered in a clearing that was mostly known just to locals, as it was not that easy to find. So suspicion fell on it being a local person. There was also a third girl traveling with them named Liz who survived but seemed to have disappeared.

Despite investigation and much speculation, the case went cold for a long time. It stayed fresh in many people’s minds though. Tips and breaks do happen at times later though, so some keep hope. Someone must know something. A good true crime book/memoir for those who like them, with some mystery and history. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Emma Copley Eisenberg, and the publisher.


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Publisher: Hachette Books – 336 pages
Published: Jan 21st, 2020
RATED: 4/5 Stars


The Author- Emma Copley Eisenberg is a writer whose work has appeared in Granta, VQR, McSweeney’s, Tin House, The Paris Review online, The New Republic, Salon, Slate, and elsewhere. Her work has been supported by the Millay Colony for the Arts, the Elizabeth George Foundation, Lambda Literary, and the New Economy Coalition. Her reporting has been recognized by GLAAD, the New York Association of Black Journalists, the Deadline Club and Longreads’ Best Crime Reporting 2017. Eisenberg lives in Philadelphia, where she co-directs Blue Stoop, a community hub for the literary arts.


 

Heavier Than Heaven

Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain

Originally published in 2001 and with a well-written update added to bring it up to date, this is a well-researched book by an author who was around for many of the events at the time. Charles Cross spent 4 years researching, and interviewing 400 people for this book. So you can tell it’s pretty thorough. He tells us how Cobain’s time being famous, from his first album coming out to his death was less than 1000 days. That’s pretty heart-rending to think about. It does a good job of filling out the picture from his beginnings in Aberdeen through growing up and finding success. A lot of focus on his songwriting and touring, practices and time spent making albums. Meeting and marrying Courtney Love and becoming a father. And of course, you know how the story ends, yet it still grabs you. This is a really good book for Nirvana fans. My thanks for the advance electronic copy that was provided by NetGalley, author Charles R Cross, and the publisher for my fair review.

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Publisher: Hachette Books – 381 pages
Published: April 2nd, 2019
RATED: 4/5 Stars

The Author- CHARLES R. CROSS was editor of The Rocket, the Northwest’s highly regarded music and entertainment magazine and the first publication to do a cover story on Nirvana. He is also the author of Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix; Led Zeppelin: Heaven and Hell; Backstreets: Springsteen, the Man and his Music; Nevermind: The Classic Album; and Here We Are Now: The Lasting Impact of Kurt Cobain. His writing has appeared in Rolling Stone, Esquire, and Spy, among many other publications. He lives in Seattle.

Drug Warrior

Drug Warrior: Inside the Hunt for El Chapo and the Rise of America’s Opioid Crisis

DEA agent Riley has been busting drug dealers since he started working his way up in the ranks to the number two position. His targets have grown along with his talent and ambition. For a long time now, he has been after the worst of the dealers flooding our country with all kinds of drugs, El Chapo. He became the #1 after Pablo Escobar was taken down. This was a good paced read following his different assignments as he moved through the DEA, always with one goal in mind, to get El Chapo. A great read for anyone interested in true crime or law enforcement.

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A very good history on the huge influx of drugs coming into the US, simply shocking the numbers! I knew it was bad, but this was just stunning. Marijuana by the train car load. Tons of it. And that’s the just the mild stuff. It’s mind-boggling. The heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and fentanyl are another story. Riley had an amazing 32-year career with the DEA and his book is quite a read. My thanks for the advance electronic copy that was provided by NetGalley, author Jack Riley, and the publisher for my fair review.

Publisher: Hachette Books – 272 pages
Publication: Feb 19th, 2019

RATING: 5/5 Stars

The Authors– John “Jack” Riley spent his DEA career combating Mexican and Colombian cartels and drug-related gang violence. At the time of his retirement, Riley was the highest ranking career Special Agent at the DEA, serving as the organization’s second in command, overseeing global drug enforcement efforts. 

Mitch Weiss is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist currently working for the Associated Press. Over the last 25 years, he has investigated government corruption, white-collar crime, police misconduct, and clerical sexual abuse. His books include Tiger Force and The Heart of Hell: The Untold Story of Courage and Sacrifice in the Shadow of Iwo Jima.

Maid

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive

Stephanie Land didn’t have it easy.  She was a single mom who worked hard cleaning other people’s houses, working in their yards, doing whatever she had to in order to feed herself and her daughter, Mia. This was after she found herself homeless when the father of her daughter kicked them out. It’s not like she felt she could ask her folks for help, no way. She found that government help for housing wasn’t easy to stomach, left them with no privacy and was very stressful. So she fought hard to avoid ever being in that position again if she could help it.

When she found herself suddenly homeless again a couple of years later after a breakup with a year-long boyfriend and he gave her a month to move out, she refused to go back to a shelter. She was trying so hard to get ahead, taking classes online, studying at night when her daughter slept, trying to get a degree. With the help of friends this time, Stephanie managed to move them into a tiny studio apartment and stored much of their things and worked harder than ever to stay afloat. There were times she drank coffee to help with the hunger pains, and there were times she had to go a couple of weeks without coffee even.

This book is very readable, though not easy topics, it moves well. I found it a very interesting record of what Stephanie went through during that time in her life as she did what she had to in order to get by for her and her daughter.  She’s very strong and put up with a lot. It had to be terribly hard without any family help all that time, and no support system to speak of much of the time. You could really feel for her, the loneliness and aching as she slogged along wanting a better life. My thanks for the advance electronic copy that was provided by NetGalley, author Stephanie Land, and the publisher for my fair review.

Publisher: Hachette Books  288 pages
Publication: Jan 22nd, 2019

RATING: 4/5 Stars

The Author– Journalist Stephanie Land’s work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Vox, Salon, and many other outlets. She focuses on social and economic justice as a writing fellow through both the Center for Community Change and the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.