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Fake: Forgery, Lies, & eBay Paperback – May 8, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In November 1998, Walton was a bored, unproductive 31-year-old Sacramento attorney when a "boorish" army buddy, Ken Fetterman, showed him his eBay art auctions on the Internet, gave him a five-minute tutorial on "the world's largest flea market" and cut Walton in on an auction that doubled his $400 investment. Soon Walton was frequenting thrift stores, making shill bids to raise the price on his own and Fetterman's auctions and selling paintings with signatures he strongly suspected were doctored by Fetterman, even allowing one buyer to think he'd landed a Giacometti. When Walton forges Richard Diebenkorn's signature on a painting that auctions for $135,805 in May 2000, the result is front-page coverage in the New York Times and an FBI investigation. The amoral slacker loses friends, lovers and his law license. eBay bans him for life; he pleads guilty to a felony and gets probation. Walton is humbled but gains a conscience, a pure love of art and a passion for computer programming. This engrossing morality tale is also a primer on how to commit Internet fraud, an indictment of eBay and its lackadaisical attitudes about crime, as well as a sad commentary on society where art is a commodity to be bought sight unseen by the greedy and foolish. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Fake is the real deal -- a vivid and illuminating sprint through the murky waters of online auctions, greed, and the makings of a con. Kenneth Walton's story is rapid-fire read for all, and a compelling primer for anyone thinking of buying or selling something valuable over the Internet."

-- Franz Wisner, New York Times bestselling author of Honeymoon with My Brother

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books (May 8, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416948058
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416948056
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,064,828 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I was, in late 1998, a somewhat unproductive and very unhappy junior attorney, working for the third-largest law firm in Sacramento. Eager for any distraction, I began selling art on eBay, an avocation I learned from an old army buddy, Ken Fetterman, who seemed to be doing really well with it.

It started out innocently, but things quickly went awry. In May 2000, I forged the signature of Richard Diebenkorn onto a painting that resembled his work, and then auctioned it on eBay for $135,858. The New York Times put me on its front page, the FBI started investigating me, and I got in a lot of trouble.

With my legal career over, I started developing software, and soon started HammerTap, which (ironically) made tools for eBay users. The company was successful, but when eBay discovered I was the one running it, it threatened to sue me unless I sold it. And so I did.

This gave me time to start work on my book FAKE: Forgery, Lies, & eBay, which will be released on April 25, 2006.

I currently live in Sacramento, California. FAKE is my first book. I enjoyed writing it, and if you like it I may write more.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Harold Hawkins on May 16, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book because I'm a powerseller on eBay, and I thought it sounded like an interesting story. But let me tell you, it's far more than just a story about unethical selling on eBay. This book reads like a thriller, and is difficult to put down. It's a crazy story about a somewhat ordinary guy who is unhappy with his job and is desperate to try something different. A lot of us can relate to that. His problem is that the "something" he tries (eBay) tastes so unbelievably good that he gets hooked on it immediately, and then when he discovers that it is rotten inside, he can't stop eating it, even though he knows it's bad for him.

This leads to some rather dire consequences. You can't believe what this guy goes through, and you wonder how he survived. In the end, he not only survives, but thrives, and it's inspiring to watch him get there.

The writing is not dry or boring at all, and reads like a great novel. He weaves his own crazy story with interesting facts about eBay, the art world, and the criminal justice system. I should say this: This book is not just for eBay users. This is a story ANYone could enjoy and relate to. I challenge you to to try and tear yourself away from it once you start.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By D. Smith on October 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I am a high end art collector at major auctions and have looked at ebay items up for sell. So many are obviously fakes that I have written to a couple of power sellers. They immediately threatened to sue me.

However, that is not why I am writing this review. This is a story of someone who knew nothing about art but was slowly engulfed in a new world where profit opportunity was high and old rules no longer applied. The individual involved acted like a major corporation in slowly bending the rules until they no longer believed the old rules or thought they could not possible be caught.

I think the story should be read by every corporate executive in America. It shows how easy it is to justify going 65 in a 55 zone and then occasionally speeding up to 85 when you think no one cares that you are going over the speed limit.

It is also an inspirational tale. I am very impressed with the author and how he changed his life around.

I would also recommend this book to anyone buying or selling on ebay. It is unbelievable how some of the items are marketed there. Ebay is not incented to police it to the degree they should. Buyer beware. At least for sure, I can tell you the art is not what you think it is!

This is a fast read .. get it.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Casey Dangel on May 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is a very good read. I bought this at the same time I got Augusten Burroughs' new book and intended to read both at the same time (I have a short attention span and like to juggle at least two books at a time). But once I started this, I couldn't put it down. Without using Dan Brown-style deliberate cliffhangers, the author has a way of keeping you reading. It's all about good storytelling, and the guy's got a good story.

The book has a lot to say about the art world, a world I didn't really know anything about, and the author tilts up the corporate giant that is eBay and allows you to look at its dark underside, which is populated by a lot of pretty nasty characters (including, by the middle of the book, the author himself). He undertakes some pretty shady stuff and gets himself in a lot of trouble, all the while deluding himself into thinking he's not really doing anything wrong (like an alcoholic who can't admit he has a drinking problem).

By the end of the book, though, you end up begrudgingly liking him. I did, anyway. There's a lot of interesting stuff here. I would give this 4.5 stars, but I can't, so I will make the call and round down to 4. But like I said, it's a very good read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By N. A. Mcpherson on July 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
My son picked "Fake" for our mother/son book club. The boys are sixteen; the mothers work in a variety of professional fields. No one was bored. Everyone finished the book, which is unusual. Discussion was lively and wide-ranging, even with the author present. I asked and he came!

Part of the charm of the book, the story and the man derives from our inherent hope that people can grow by surviving adversity, even self-made, or perhaps, especially self-made. Walton gives readers an engaging look at the California art scene and ebay, while allowing us to watch him decide what he will do next.

If he writes another book, I'll definitely read it.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Gail Wiggums on May 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Once I began this extraordinary book, I could not put it down. Whether you are an art buff, addicted to ebay or simply relish a great story, you can't go wrong. Not often a fan of non fiction, I'm inspired to seek out other works.

If the book is lacking anything, it's that I wish it had been longer. Highly recommend.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Kenneth Walton's book is a can't-put-down revelation of true character growth.

In the beginning, he describes himself as nothing more than a shallow, run-of-the-mill law school graduate who -- after only a year on the job -- was already desperate to escape his boring daily grind as just another faceless attorney at a large Sacramento law firm. I've known many young, newly-minted professionals (accountants, doctors, lawyers) in the same predicament: After investing years in their educations and taking on crushing student loans, they finally graduate and are suddenly faced with the reality of the inhuman hours, incredible stress, and limited options inherent in working for a large, traditional institution (as the author discovers, such big law firms are always the same, whether located in Sacramento or Paris). At that point, many start to desperately seek a way -- any way -- out of the madness. I know a couple of former corporate attorneys who are now much happier working at other jobs (rafting guide, truck driver) that have nothing whatsoever to do with the law...

Unfortunately for the young Mr. Walton, he didn't choose at that point to simply abandon the practice of law and run away to become an honest cowboy, fireman, plumber, Starbucks barrista, etc. Instead, he unhappily struggled on. Soon, his sad career plight was noticed by the slyly experienced Mr. Fetterman, who proceeded to milk Mr. Walton's desperation into a slippery plan to assist him in his lucrative eBay con games. However, since any successful con game depends on the greed and deception (especially self-deception) of BOTH the conner and the connee, Mr. Walton convinced himself to continue compromising his principles by acting as an eBay shill.
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