Like any good caper movie, the story is crowded with colorful characters, straight from the pages of Elmore Leonard…This is a fun book, fast-paced and full of vim, a screenplay in the making. But life is a lot messier than the movies, and, to his credit, Kersten does not flinch from reality. In fact, his unsentimental refusal to gloss over the unsavory and depressing details of Williams's life, the private demons that haunt him and his whole dysfunctional family, gives this book its true authenticity of character.
The Washington Post
Kersten traces the history of Art Williams from his impoverished childhood to (infamous) career as one of the greatest counterfeiters in modern times. Though Williams serves as the center, Kersten also provides critical commentary on the institutions that shaped Williams, notably his family structure and the American prison system. The prose proves accessible and enjoyable, but Jim Bond's performance makes the book significantly more intriguing. His deep projection coupled with his matter-of-fact delivery make even the most technical passages enjoyable and relatable, and his masterful emphasis and pace help listeners slip into Williams's psyche. A Gotham hardcover (Reviews, Apr. 20). (June)
An intelligent, likable boy raised by a mentally troubled mother (his father was absent), master counterfeiter Art Williams drifted into involvement with street gangs at an early age in Chicago. Eventually, a counterfeiter named Pete DaVinci showed Williams the tricks of the trade, from producing to distributing the bills. He soon ventured out on his own, selling bills to Chicago's organized crime gangs, who used the money in a variety of illegal operations. After a stay in a Texas prison, Williams returned to counterfeiting, using computer desktop publishing software and printers to produce bills. He even managed to copy the new $100 bills that incorporated many features designed to deter counterfeiters. At the same time, he reconnected with his father, then living in Alaska, but was soon betrayed by a family member to the U.S. Secret Service. VERDICT Journalist Kersten's absorbing account reads like crime fiction, offering an understanding of modern counterfeiting that will appeal to readers of that genre as well as those who like true crime. [See Prepub Alert, LJ2/1/09.]—Stephen L. Hupp, West Virginia Univ., Parkersburg
Stephen L. Hupp
Expanding on his Rolling Stone article, first-time author Kersten tenders a lawbreaker's script about fake money and an alternative lifestyle, told largely from the viewpoint of the fascinating perp. Engaging and accomplished counterfeiter Art Williams had a truly rotten childhood, according to the memories he shared with the author. After considerable bad behavior, Dad skipped out, leaving the kids with certifiably crazy Mom. Gangs dictated life and death on the gritty streets of Chicago's worst neighborhood. Yet there Williams was mentored by benevolent Pete "DaVinci," a clever printer of bank notes. One day, his teacher was gone, and the young student, with native pluck and instinctive smarts, manfully clawed his way to the top of the counterfeiting heap. Ironically, he only got into trouble with the law after a breakup with a girlfriend led him to sell off his printing equipment, move to Texas and take up robbery. Nabbed in a jewelry heist, he did six years in the Texas penal system and emerged in 1999 swearing he'd stick to bad bills. But the familiar old currency was being supplanted by the "New Note," whose enhanced paper, watermarks, security strips and microprinting were nearly impossible to replicate. Not for the inventive and proficient Williams, who produced a creditable bogus hundred using glues, sprays, ink, paper, press, camera, scanner and laptop. He wholesaled his product at 30 cents on the dollar, but it was more exciting to pass it on road trips with family and friends. It's estimated that Williams stimulated his own economy with some $10 million in counterfeit before he was nabbed. His downfall resulted from family problems, especially misplaced filial consideration.Where is our hero now? Just where you would expect, considering that he's a recidivist. An absorbed reporter grippingly relays the story of a rare trade and the troubled family relations of a talented grifter. Film rights to Paramount. Agent: Scott Waxman/Waxman Literary Agency