Ugly Americans: The True Story of the Ivy League Cowboys Who Raided the Asian Markets for Millions

( 29 )

Overview

Ben Mezrich, author of the New York Times bestseller Bringing Down the House, returns with an astonishing story of Ivy League hedge-fund cowboys, high stakes, and the Asian underworld.

John Malcolm was the ultimate gunslinger in the Wild East, prepared to take on any level of risk in making mind-boggling sums of money. He and his friends were hedge-fund cowboys, living life on the adrenaline-, sex-, and drugs-fueled edge—kids running billion-dollar portfolios, trading ...

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Ugly Americans: The True Story of the Ivy League Cowboys Who Raided the Asian Markets for Millions

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Overview

Ben Mezrich, author of the New York Times bestseller Bringing Down the House, returns with an astonishing story of Ivy League hedge-fund cowboys, high stakes, and the Asian underworld.

John Malcolm was the ultimate gunslinger in the Wild East, prepared to take on any level of risk in making mind-boggling sums of money. He and his friends were hedge-fund cowboys, living life on the adrenaline-, sex-, and drugs-fueled edge—kids running billion-dollar portfolios, trading information in the back rooms of high-class brothels and at VIP tables in nightclubs across the Far East.

Malcolm and his Ivy League-schooled twenty-something colleagues, with their warped sense of morality, created their own economic theory that would culminate in a single deal the likes of which had never been seen before—or since.

Ugly Americans is a story of extremes, charged with wealth, nerve, excess, and glamour. A real-life mixture of Liar's Poker and Wall Street, brimming with intense action, romance, underground sex, vivid locales, and exotic characters, Ugly Americans is the untold true story that rocked the financial community.

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Editorial Reviews

Oregonian
“A high-octane passion play pitting a young man’s ambition against his sense of humanity.”
Oregonian
“A high-octane passion play pitting a young man’s ambition against his sense of humanity.”
Publishers Weekly
Though the names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent, this is a true story, containing all the ingredients of a great narrative a main character the reader can relate to, an appealing love interest, money, danger, the need for acceptance, suspense and even the realization (in some form) of the American dream. Mezrich (Bringing Down the House) presents wanna-be financial star "John Malcolm," who accepts a nebulous job offer in Japan in the mid-1990s and leaves his middle-class New Jersey postcollege aimless existence for an adventure he might have dreamed of had he any idea of what the big boys' world of finance was really like. After hitting the ground at top speed from day one, John and his cohorts all male, mostly Ivy League graduates learn their way around the lucrative, fast-paced and legal-but-barely-palatable world of cowboy-style Asian market finance. In the process, they make millions (sometimes per trade) and pride themselves on knowing when to get in and how to spot their exit point. Their bottom line is all that matters; everything else from emotion to opinion is secondary. In a truly engaging look at how an innocent who thinks he knows the world does actually end up understanding a small but significant piece of it, Mezrich manages to incorporate solid journalism into a narrative that just plain works. Agent, David Vigliano. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Sex, money, and more than a whiff of criminal activity enliven this too-good-to-be-true real-life business drama. With the exception of Bringing Down the House (2002), which profiled six MIT students who scammed the Vegas casinos, Mezrich has made a career in fictional thrillers (Reaper, 1998, etc.), which doesn't make him unqualified to write nonfiction but definitely makes him suspect when the going gets pulpy. After an author's note that tells us all the main characters' names have been changed, we meet our bright young star: John Malcolm, an ex-Princeton football player who lands a job as a Nikkei trader in Osaka in the 1990s, working for Kidder Peabody superstar Dean Carney. After an accounting screw-up leaves Malcolm's division unemployed, he gets hired by Barings and meets the venerable British bank's Singapore hotshot, Nick Leeson. In January 1995, when an earthquake rattles Japan and the Nikkei, it turns out that not only had Leeson had been betting billions on the Nikkei rising, he'd been betting the company's own money with no client to back it up. The resulting catastrophe almost destroyed Barings, which laid off 1,200 people, including Malcolm. He bounced back with a job at Carney's hot new hedge fund, where rules were broken and scruples shattered in the name of ungodly amounts of profit. Here's where the tale begins to resemble one of Mezrich's thrillers: the Yakuza show up, and there's even a gorgeous girlfriend whispering get-out-before-it's-too-late warnings in Malcolm's ear. The author knows how to plot his story, giving his protagonist moral dilemmas to solve at regular, well-timed intervals and painting it all against a Boiler Room-like background of easy money,sports cars, and frat-boy Americans going wild in Tokyo's seedy underbelly. But the beats are too perfectly synchronized, the action too perfectly dramatic, and the people too reminiscent of stock movie characters. Undeniably fun, but readers may well wonder just how much of this could actually be true. Agent: Michael Harriot/Vigliano Associate
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060575014
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/26/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 287,364
  • Product dimensions: 7.84 (w) x 5.28 (h) x 0.66 (d)

Meet the Author

Ben Mezrich

Ben Mezrich graduated magna cum laude from Harvard in 1991. He has published twelve books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Accidental Billionaires, which was adapted into the Academy Award-winning film The Social Network, and Bringing Down the House, which has sold more than 1.5 million copies in twelve languages and became the basis for the Kevin Spacey movie 21. Mezrich has also published the national bestsellers Sex on the Moon, Ugly Americans, Rigged, and Busting Vegas. He lives in Boston.

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Read an Excerpt

Ugly Americans

Chapter One

The breeze was thick and hot and weighed down with the stench of cigarettes, alcohol, cheap perfume, and dead fish. The alley was narrow, bordered on both sides by four-story buildings with blackened windows and steel-grated doors. The pavement was cracked and the sidewalk was littered with broken milk crates and crumpled magazines. There were puddles everywhere, flashing bright snakes of reflected neon from the signs perched above the buildings. The puddles were impossible to avoid, and John Malcolm cursed to himself as he splashed through them. His Gucci shoes were already two shades darker and soon they'd be completely ruined. Shoulders hunched, head down, he was moving as fast as he could without showing how much he wanted to run. Somewhere up ahead someone was shouting, but the words weren't English, and even after five years Malcolm didn't speak anything else.

Wrong time, wrong place. That's what the headlines would say, Malcolm thought to himself. Another ugly American sticking his head where it didn't belong. He knew he was just being paranoid. Even here, in this alley in a part of the city you didn't find in the glossy travel brochures or happy little guidebooks, you were safer than anywhere back in the States. It was well past two in the morning, and there were people everywhere; bad things usually didn't happen when people were around. But just the same, Malcolm wanted nothing more than to turn and head back toward the train station. Back to the safety of fluorescent lights, vending machines, and brightly dressed tourists.

He stepped over a milk crate and through another puddle. In front of him, oneof the grated doors flung open and a group of businessmen in matching blue suits stumbled out into the alley. Loud, laughing, jackets open, ties undone. Fumes of whiskey coming off them like diesel, their faces matching shades of red. Then they saw him and quickly made a show of not seeing him, their voices dulled, their movements suddenly subdued.

He hurried past. Another ten yards, and a dark green awning caught his eye. Beneath the awning was a yellow wooden door with no knob, just a covered steel slot at eye level.

Malcolm pulled at his white oxford shirt, which was sticking to his chest and back. There was no number, but he knew this was the place. Green awning, yellow wooden door. Then he noticed the handpainted sign next to the door, brilliant red English letters on a black background: JAPANESE ONLY.

He felt his lips tighten, more reflex than anything else. There were signs like this all over Tokyo. On the surface it seemed like bigotry: acceptance based on race, as if his white face would contaminate the place. But it was more complex than that. This wasn't a gourmet restaurant or a country club or the entrance to a golf course. Establishments with signs like this really weren't meant for Americans. Especially here, in Kabuki-cho.

Although originally intended as a cultural center to showcase the glamorous Japanese-style theater from which its name was derived, Kabuki-cho had morphed into an entirely different entity by the 1950s: a place with no equivalent in the Western world, a redlight district on a scale unimaginable anywhere else. A twenty-block maze of dark, windowless alleys and bright neon signs that drew more than six hundred thousand visitors a night. A throbbing city within a city, a pincushion of sex-related amusements: strip clubs, hostess bars, massage parlors, X-rated theaters, and various shades of brothels.

Malcolm straightened his hair with his fingers, then rapped a knuckle against the steel slot.

There was a brief pause, then the slot flipped inward. A pair of dark eyes peered at him from inside: long eyelashes, thick blue shadow, cracked eggshells at the corners. Malcolm's face relaxed as the woman considered his appearance: short, dyed blond hair, narrow blue eyes, lips that naturally turned up at the edges. A bit below average height but compact, with muscular limbs and an athlete's shoulders. A personal sense of efficiency was reflected in his clothes: dark slacks, dark shoes, the white oxford rolled up at the wrists. He had come straight from work. His jacket and tie were still draped over his chair back at the office.

A few seconds passed in silence, then the steel slot snapped shut. There was the sound of multiple locks clicking open, and the door swung inward. The woman with the blue eye shadow and eggshell eyes was standing at the top of a descending carpeted stairway. She was tiny, less than five feet tall, and wearing a floor-length pink gown. She smiled, showing crooked yellow teeth. Then she took Malcolm's hand and ushered him inside.

A blast of cold air hit him as he reached the bottom step. He paused, pulling against the woman's hand as he took in the strange sight ahead. The room was long and rectangular, stretching a good fifty feet. There were steel benches lining either side and chrome poles sprouting from the floor. Metal bars and leather hand straps hung from the ceiling. Women in business suits, some with briefcases, stood with arms outstretched, holding on to the straps and bars. Younger women, in the penguinlike schoolgirl uniforms common all over Japan, gathered by the chrome poles. About a dozen men, most of them middle-aged, were seated on the metal benches, watching the women hungrily. The women seemed to sway back and forth, as if the floor were vibrating beneath them. Stranger still, the walls of the room were covered in rounded windows with fake outdoor scenery.

A subway car, Malcolm thought to himself. He watched as one of the men got up from his bench and made his way to one of the schoolgirls. The girl pretended to ignore the man as he came up behind her. Without a word, he lifted her skirt with one hand. His other hand slid between the buttons of her blouse ...

Ugly Americans. Copyright © by Ben Mezrich. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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First Chapter

Ugly Americans
The True Story of the Ivy League Cowboys Who Raided the Asian Markets for Millions

Chapter One

The breeze was thick and hot and weighed down with the stench of cigarettes, alcohol, cheap perfume, and dead fish. The alley was narrow, bordered on both sides by four-story buildings with blackened windows and steel-grated doors. The pavement was cracked and the sidewalk was littered with broken milk crates and crumpled magazines. There were puddles everywhere, flashing bright snakes of reflected neon from the signs perched above the buildings. The puddles were impossible to avoid, and John Malcolm cursed to himself as he splashed through them. His Gucci shoes were already two shades darker and soon they'd be completely ruined. Shoulders hunched, head down, he was moving as fast as he could without showing how much he wanted to run. Somewhere up ahead someone was shouting, but the words weren't English, and even after five years Malcolm didn't speak anything else.

Wrong time, wrong place. That's what the headlines would say, Malcolm thought to himself. Another ugly American sticking his head where it didn't belong. He knew he was just being paranoid. Even here, in this alley in a part of the city you didn't find in the glossy travel brochures or happy little guidebooks, you were safer than anywhere back in the States. It was well past two in the morning, and there were people everywhere; bad things usually didn't happen when people were around. But just the same, Malcolm wanted nothing more than to turn and head back toward the train station. Back to the safety of fluorescent lights, vending machines, and brightly dressed tourists.

He stepped over a milk crate and through another puddle. In front of him, one of the grated doors flung open and a group of businessmen in matching blue suits stumbled out into the alley. Loud, laughing, jackets open, ties undone. Fumes of whiskey coming off them like diesel, their faces matching shades of red. Then they saw him and quickly made a show of not seeing him, their voices dulled, their movements suddenly subdued.

He hurried past. Another ten yards, and a dark green awning caught his eye. Beneath the awning was a yellow wooden door with no knob, just a covered steel slot at eye level.

Malcolm pulled at his white oxford shirt, which was sticking to his chest and back. There was no number, but he knew this was the place. Green awning, yellow wooden door. Then he noticed the handpainted sign next to the door, brilliant red English letters on a black background: JAPANESE ONLY.

He felt his lips tighten, more reflex than anything else. There were signs like this all over Tokyo. On the surface it seemed like bigotry: acceptance based on race, as if his white face would contaminate the place. But it was more complex than that. This wasn't a gourmet restaurant or a country club or the entrance to a golf course. Establishments with signs like this really weren't meant for Americans. Especially here, in Kabuki-cho.

Although originally intended as a cultural center to showcase the glamorous Japanese-style theater from which its name was derived, Kabuki-cho had morphed into an entirely different entity by the 1950s: a place with no equivalent in the Western world, a redlight district on a scale unimaginable anywhere else. A twenty-block maze of dark, windowless alleys and bright neon signs that drew more than six hundred thousand visitors a night. A throbbing city within a city, a pincushion of sex-related amusements: strip clubs, hostess bars, massage parlors, X-rated theaters, and various shades of brothels.

Malcolm straightened his hair with his fingers, then rapped a knuckle against the steel slot.

There was a brief pause, then the slot flipped inward. A pair of dark eyes peered at him from inside: long eyelashes, thick blue shadow, cracked eggshells at the corners. Malcolm's face relaxed as the woman considered his appearance: short, dyed blond hair, narrow blue eyes, lips that naturally turned up at the edges. A bit below average height but compact, with muscular limbs and an athlete's shoulders. A personal sense of efficiency was reflected in his clothes: dark slacks, dark shoes, the white oxford rolled up at the wrists. He had come straight from work. His jacket and tie were still draped over his chair back at the office.

A few seconds passed in silence, then the steel slot snapped shut. There was the sound of multiple locks clicking open, and the door swung inward. The woman with the blue eye shadow and eggshell eyes was standing at the top of a descending carpeted stairway. She was tiny, less than five feet tall, and wearing a floor-length pink gown. She smiled, showing crooked yellow teeth. Then she took Malcolm's hand and ushered him inside.

A blast of cold air hit him as he reached the bottom step. He paused, pulling against the woman's hand as he took in the strange sight ahead. The room was long and rectangular, stretching a good fifty feet. There were steel benches lining either side and chrome poles sprouting from the floor. Metal bars and leather hand straps hung from the ceiling. Women in business suits, some with briefcases, stood with arms outstretched, holding on to the straps and bars. Younger women, in the penguinlike schoolgirl uniforms common all over Japan, gathered by the chrome poles. About a dozen men, most of them middle-aged, were seated on the metal benches, watching the women hungrily. The women seemed to sway back and forth, as if the floor were vibrating beneath them. Stranger still, the walls of the room were covered in rounded windows with fake outdoor scenery.

A subway car, Malcolm thought to himself. He watched as one of the men got up from his bench and made his way to one of the schoolgirls. The girl pretended to ignore the man as he came up behind her. Without a word, he lifted her skirt with one hand. His other hand slid between the buttons of her blouse ...

Ugly Americans
The True Story of the Ivy League Cowboys Who Raided the Asian Markets for Millions
. Copyright © by Ben Mezrich. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

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( 29 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 29 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2005

    Misleading cover reviews

    I believe there's a good story here to be told, unfortunately Mr. Mezrich is not up to the task. His writing is sophomoric at best and filled with tired old cliches. His major interest seems to be the Japanese sex trade and not in true story and character development. I was taken in by the book cover reviews which I believe were vastly overblown and over rated.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 29, 2011

    Awesome

    I actually liked this better than amy of Ben's other books.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 29, 2011

    Fast and furious

    In the hey days of the Internet boom, no place better to move than east, no, not silicon valley, but far east to Japan.

    There John Malcolm, an ambitious young man seeks his fortune in the gold rush of the new millennium. He finds fast cars, seductive women, and a culture that beneath the bowing formalities lives a raw explosive surge.

    In Ugly Americans: The True Story of the Ivy League Cowboys Who Raided the Asian Markets for Millions by Ben Mezrich you will find a wild adventurous true tale of the high and lows of the sparkles from the flat screens measuring the wave of the markets.

    This book is fast and furious and will leave you on edge. The journey begins within the vivid descriptions of the harassment clubs where the flirtation with the outer limits of sexual ecstasy titillates the imagination. Mezrich masterfully weaves the fine line within the gray area of right and wrong all the while guided by the rules of Carney. Fun and inviting Ugly Americans: The True Story of the Ivy League Cowboys Who Raided the Asian Markets for Millions by Ben Mezrich is a joyous ride.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2006

    Great story, but how much is true?

    I was immediately drawn into this tale about Ivy League grads who traveled to Japan in the early- to mid-1990s to make staggering sums of money from the inefficiencies of the Asian markets. The story is thoroughly-researched and well-told, without becoming too technical for those without advanced financial backgrounds. The pacing was a bit slow at the beginning, but the last 70 pages flew by. It was a bit disconcerting to read in the introduction how much information had been changed to protect the identities of the sources, ultimately casting doubt on the legitimacy of the tale (especially in light of all the authors and journalists in the past few years who have admitted to falsifying information to effect suspense and drama). But even if it was complete fiction, it was a stirring story, with oddball expat characters and a sympathetic protagonist who is determined to make millions but refuses to cast aside his principles (well, some of them anyway).

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2004

    Excellent Book

    I think this was an excellent story. You cannot compare this book to the movie Boiler Room. The fact that this story is based on a true story gives it instant street credit.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2004

    Rehash of movie 'Boiler Room'

    If you have seen the movie 'Boiler Room', this book contains very little additional information. The movie could have been the inspiration for the book. Instead of New York and Long Island, the book takes place in Tokyo and Osaka. Same type of people, just different names. The writting is about as good as that of the average journalist.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2004

    Very enjoyable

    I began to read this book on a flight from NYC to Mexico City and I did not want the plane to land. Very entertaining and very easy to read. As a foreigner in a foreign land I to can relate to many of the stories and experiences.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 26, 2004

    Cash money millionaries!

    I guess the good thing about education is the opportunity to make easy, big money...and all the perks. Ignorance may be bliss........but knowledge can lead to blissful living!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2004

    Exciting reading!

    This book was exciting, finished it in two sittings. The author did well at painting a picture of what it must be like to be a person in a foreign land, as well as bringing across the cultural differences. I found that after I finished the book, it almost seems to good to be true, and I continually had to remind myself that it was a true story. All in all a fun read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2004

    You will not be disappointed

    I just finished reading Bringing Down the House and thought I'd give this book a shot. It was fantastic, I finished it in hours and I'm not a fast reader. I wanted to quit and join an investment firm in Tokyo.

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    Posted February 4, 2011

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    Posted January 4, 2010

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    Posted January 30, 2011

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    Posted September 27, 2010

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