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Arms and the Dudes: How Three Stoners from Miami Beach Became the Most Unlikely Gunrunners in History Hardcover – June 9, 2015

4.3 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Extraordinary--a hell of a read." (The New York Daily News)

"This improbable true story tracks three South Florida slackers as they navigate the dangerous world of international arms dealers while ripping off the U.S. Department of Defense for a cool $300 million. It's the perfect beach reading for smart fathers everywhere." (Esquire.com)

“It sounds like a comedy flick: Three stoners with few qualifications set out to become big-time international arms dealers. They start bidding on, and landing, Pentagon contracts. They outfox savvy international conglomerates, scoring a $300 million deal to supply mortar rounds, grenades, rockets, and 100 million rounds of AK-47 ammo to the Afghan military. As if that weren’t audacious enough, they secretly (illegally) fulfill the order with low-grade, decades- old Chinese ammo—and then things really get crazy. Arms and the Dudes includes mafiosi, hustlers, Kyrgyz secret police, blackmail, transnational grudges, and a shocking indictment of how America became the globe’s leading arms dealer. Journalist Guy Lawson’s latest may be nonfiction, but it’s bloody entertaining.” (Mother Jones)

"It's a phenomenal book...I couldn't put it down." (HuffPost Live)

“Fascinating…the reporting is incredible." (MSNBC's "The Cycle")

"A stunning story." (The Leonard Lopate Show)

"[A] rollicking yarn...An eye-opener and an excellent job of reporting and writing." (Kirkus Reviews)

"Picture three twenty something dudes with little to no experience and a $300M arms contract with the US government. What could possibly go wrong?... Lawson does a great job weaving the stories together with a broader perspective on the war in Afghanistan and a government rife with incompetency...Verdict: Thrilling." (Library Journal)

"Lawson's eye for detail and research are commendable...details the backroom machinations, corruption, red tape, and intrigue that go along with high-stakes arms deals." (Publishers Weekly)

"It’s like page-turning fiction, but 100-percent true...More than a few Wall Streeters I know have started to read this one." (CNBC.com)

“A thrilling account of the stoners’ quick ascent into the gunrunning world and their eventual fall from the Defense Department’s graces…provides valuable insights into the Pentagon’s failures to keep watch over private contractors engaged in arms transfers to Afghanistan and Iraq…[Lawson] uses compelling prose to provide a rare window into the gunrunning and arms-procurement world — and, even better, a gripping read.” (Washington Independent Review of Books)

“Fun, fast-paced, ironic, the reportage seems solid and the facts straight…. Lawson’s book is ridiculously readable, well written, and hard to put down.” (Library Journal’s “Books for Dudes”)

"Arms and the Dudes tells a great story... Lawson offers readers a fun new take on a moral as old as time: When you fly too close to the sun, you end up on the ground."
(Washington Post)

“The book unfolds like a Hollywood movie project that requires no green light, only casting… The developments are so unbelievable that a writer less skilled than Lawson would have still written a compelling book. Instead, the reporter, whose first version was published in Rolling Stone in 2011, fills in context. Arms and the Dudes is as much about the collapse of American accountability in Iraq during the late ’00s as it is about the dudes.”
(Miami Herald)

“Guy Lawson has done a miraculous job…a glorious piece of investigative journalism… No one’s clever ‘what if,’ this is a well-researched exposé of government and law gone wild. Intricately detailed and expertly paced, Mr. Lawson’s cautionary tale should lead to corrective action. Meanwhile, it is delightfully disturbing reading.”
(Florida Weekly)

“Like the best stories about rogues, con artists and scammers, the magic is in the details. Guy Lawson's, Arms and Dudes, misses nothing. He gets it all.” (Nick Pileggi, author of Wiseguy)

“This is one of those books that, God help us, shouldn’t be true—but is. US governmental bungling, war in Afghanistan going awry, foreign hustlers making millions out of bilking heroic soldiers, and in the middle of it all are two barely post-teenager dopers fumbling their way into and out of the highest level of the sleazy arms business. Guy Lawson tells the disturbing story brilliantly. You’ll cringe, you’ll want to look away (a lot), but you won’t be able to stop turning the pages." (Jeff Guinn, author of Manson)

“Guy Lawson’s Arms and the Dudes is a triumph of investigative reporting and storytelling. This book is a mind-blowing account of how two kids turned themselves into some of the world’s biggest weapons dealers in the chaotic years of the Iraq war. I couldn’t put it down. If it were on the fiction shelf, the rollicking, riveting tale told within these pages would seem wildly implausible. But it’s not.” (Rajiv Chandrasekaran, author of Imperial Life in the Emerald City and Little America)

About the Author

Guy Lawson is a New York Times bestselling author and award-winning investigative journalist whose articles on war, crime, culture, and law have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, GQ, Harpers Magazine, and many other publications.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (June 9, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451667590
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451667592
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #16,001 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have no particular interest in arms trading, but I love a good read, and this jaw dropping true story kept me up reading until 3am! It is an incredibly well researched piece of journalism, but it reads like page-turning fiction - except this story is way too crazy to have been made up. Guy Lawson is at the top of his game here, letting us in on how two stoner teenagers (working at a kitchen table with two cellphones) were awarded millions of dollars of US government military contracts and how they deal with everyone from sleazy but world renowned international arms dealers to average Joe's taking advantage of the loosely regulated world of internet gun trade. I will never again be able to hear about troops being deployed anywhere for any reason without wondering where their weapons came from, and who procured them.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A fun and educational read tailor-made for people (like me) whose eyes glaze over at the minutiae of government policy and international relations. Lawson explains the complex legal and historical matters that contribute to the plot in a clear, concise way--just the facts to help illustrate the ridiculousness of this true story, paired with amazing interviews from the dudes themselves. I flew through it in 48 hours, totally hooked by the great storytelling. I learned a ton and highly recommend this book!
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Format: Hardcover
I read this book as a firearms enthusiast. It's clear to me that these guys, although two of them come off as extremely selfish and greedy, were basically entrapped. (Especially in the coda at the end) When the law is unclear (as it was about the Chinese ammunition issue - five+ years storage should effectively "repatriate" it) it seems like the leeway is given to the prosecution, not the defendant. Entrapment, entrapment, entrapment. We needed this ammunition for our Afghan allies, and all this book does is show how venal some law enforcement can be, and how screwed up the procurement process was, and still is.
The book itself is breezy, well written and entertaining.
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Format: Kindle Edition
One of my frustrations in historical books/films/television is the need by writers to veer far from known or widely accepted fact. To the point that I probably mutter "truth is stranger than fiction" in my sleep.

Here is a fantastic example of such. Granted this is not historical fiction. This is a deft investigative look at a story that simply boggled this mind.

Lawson manages to be the detail oriented journalist and still deliver a great narrative that captivates and entertains and even frustrates more than once at the outrageous sequence of events plays out in a way seems almost impossible. But true! (sorry could not resist).

This is a fast read and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was an eyebrow-raising scandal when it first broke in the headlines. But the truth behind those (sometime faulty) headlines is far more amazing and worrisome. Guy Lawson did a remarkable job with "Octopus," but he's topped himself with this sometimes hilarious, always appalling story of two misfit young stoners who became major arms dealers to the U.S. government. Strongly recommended for "true crime" mavens!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Military procurement is a dull subject made entertaining by this little gem of a book. Ever wonder how wisely your tax dollars are spent to fuel our mighty military machine? Well, through the experiences of the main characters, we learn that it is a process fraught with the worst bureaucratic abuse and mismanagement. We learn, through the story of the characters, that the government is at odds with itself and savvy scoundrels make huge profits by exploiting this system. There are no heroes in this book or hope given for reform. This is a very entertaining tale, told through the eyes of its participants, as to government run amok.
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Format: Hardcover
This is the first book in a very long time that I read cover to cover non-stop. Fascinating story, easy read, and very entertaining! Blew my mind how the government just "shoots itself in the foot" and everybody suffers. Can't wait to see the movie!!! :-)
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an amazing story. I still find it hard to believe that it actually happened even though I know that it did. I guess it's just a matter of time before it becomes a movie. The author did a very good job writing I was never bored.
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