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Tuesday, 10 March 2015
Lad Lit Book Review: Ugly Americans by Ben Mezrich
I first read Ugly Americans about 10 years ago when it first came out. I’d just discovered Ben Mezrich through Bringing Down The House and Busting Vegas, and had become a big fan. This book, whilst perhaps not one of Mezrich’s most well-known books, is one of my favourites.
In 1993 John Malcolm throws himself into the crazy world of stockbroking in Japan. He receives a baptism of fire as the first company he works for loses hundreds of millions in a deal set-up by one of the directors, forcing him out of a job. It's not long before he ends up at Barings Bank, working for infamous rogue trader Nick Leeson who made a $2bn gamble that sent Barings into receivership and Malcolm back to the job centre.
Malcolm ends up working back with the man who brought him to Asia in the first place, Dean Carney, and that is where the fun, fortune and fame start. Malcolm soon starts to rise up the financial ladder, making deals and trades that propel him to become a star in his own right to his fellow expat western traders, before being responsible for what was called "biggest deal in the history of the financial markets."
Millions are made, and then even more millions are made, but for me the real appeal in this book comes from the backdrop of the weird and wonderful fish bowl that is Tokyo. From the downright bizarre back-alley sex clubs and fetishes of local rich businessman, to the sinister side of Japan’s underbelly, namely the Yakuza.
Like all Mezrich books there is a love interest, the daughter of a Japanese mob boss, and through this relationship Malcolm find himself rubbing shoulders with men more cut-throat than those he works alongside on the trading floor.
It's an incredible journey and Mezrich excels once again in telling the story and bringing to life a world crafted from greed, power and unimaginable wealth, held together by danger and risk at every corner.
As the title says, this really is the true story of the Ivy League cowboys who raided the Asian markets for millions.