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The Art of Making Money: The Story of a Master Counterfeiter Hardcover – Bargain Price, June 11, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. A young smalltime crook with a meticulous eye for artistic detail and an addiction to the thrill of crime crafts millions in high-quality phony bills in KerstenÖs account of counterfeiter Art Williams Jr. Born in 1972 and abandoned by his father to poverty, the gritty gangs of Chicago and a mentally ill mother, Williams slid into an underworld of theft and violence before a bohemian money crafter introduced him to counterfeiting. With swagger, ingenuity and a devoted wife, Williams produced millions of dollarsÖ worth of uncannily accurate bills for 14 years, till the Secret Service caught up with him. As Kersten narrates this story, he ably weaves the minuscule details of currency security with colorful portraits of underworld characters like a Chinese mob leader known as the Horse and tales of giddy shopping sprees fueled by sex, fake bills, even mischievous masquerades as priests. Illustrating Williams not only as a delinquent genius but a sensitive young man seeking paternal love and aesthetic validation, Kersten (who first told WilliamsÖs story in Rolling Stone) configures a rollicking and captivating look into a compelling criminal mind. (June 11)
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"Jason Kersten delves into the arcane world of a master counterfeiter with a fine eye for detail and novelist's grasp of character. A story about fathers and sons, filled with crime-fueled 'slamming' trips, drug pirates, and obsessive desire, I couldn't put it down. After reading this true tale of money and crime, I'll never be able to look at a C- note the same way again."-Julia Flynn Siler, author of the New York Times bestseller, The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham (June 11, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592404464
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,050,829 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jason Kersten is the author of the best-selling book, The Art of the Making Money: The Story of a Master Counterfeiter, as well as the 2003 New York Times Notable Book, Journal of the Dead: A Story of Friendship and Murder in the New Mexico Desert. Between books, he often writes for national magazines such as Rolling Stone, Men's Journal, and Reader's Digest. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on August 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover
It is rather amazing that our day-to-day economy is founded on rectangles of printed paper, worthless in themselves, but to which we all communally assign a high value. The difference between the rectangles' actual value and their symbolic value is what counterfeiters exploit, and the counterfeiter's work was considered so dangerous to society that it used to be a capital crime. It is still a danger, and the object of the Federal Reserve Bank is to print dollar bills that cannot be copied, while the object of the counterfeiters is to copy them. This cat-and-mouse game has best been played recently by counterfeiter Art Williams, who successfully conquered the redesigned $100 bill, issued to thwart photocopiers in 1996. Successfully, for a while at least. Williams's story is told in _The Art of Making Money: The Story of a Master Counterfeiter_ (Gotham Books) by Jason Kersten. Kersten has had plenty of interviews with Williams, and with many of his connections; he did not get cooperation from the Secret Service, which preferred to keep things secret. The Secret Service was formed in 1865 to combat counterfeiters, who were threatening the foundation of the US economy. Only later did it get the job it is better known for, protecting the president. So while there are some details about the work of the counterfeiter and his detection and prosecution, most of the book plays as a biography of a talented, obsessed, and tragic figure.

Williams had an upbringing fit for a career criminal, including a chaotic home and gang membership. A counterfeiting expert took him under his wing, explaining how to use the arc-light burner, make plates, mix inks, obtain paper, and the other matters of hardware, as well as common-sense tips on how to unload the money and keep from getting caught.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By C A Studog on August 2, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Jason Kersten does a marvelous job of telling the true story of how Art Williams became one of the most successful conterfeiters in modern times. The narrative flows beautifully to bring readers into the difficult and troubled life of Art as he was growing up and how he got into conterfeiting. There's no sense of hyperbole nor of minimizing Art's strengths and/or his flaws. Art's story itself also is inherently compelling because of his great humanity and how his attempt to connect with his estranged father led to his discovery and apprehension by the secret service. I found this book to be one of the most memorable and high-quality books that I have ever read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Michael Davey on July 30, 2009
Format: MP3 CD
I listened to the audio version of "The Art of Making Money", I think this might be the best way to get this particular title. A young man finds himself on a roller coaster ride, but instead of getting off, he yells "faster, faster", even though he must know where the ride is going to end up. The disappearance of his counterfeiting mentor is like a foreshadowing... We know that huge amounts of (funny) money, a dysfunctional set of friends and family and the secret service are all going to combine for a nasty ending, but what a ride!

More than anything, we learn something that many people find out, that in the end, no matter what, family, and our parents are often a bond that can't be broken no matter how badly they treat us, nor how many times they abandon us, or how badly we treat each other.

I'll keep this audio book for listening to again.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By James C. Stoltz on September 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Jason Kersten knows how to write. Regardless of what you think about Art Williams Jr. as a person, Kersten has spun a highly entertaining tale full of fascinating characters, events, and subject matter. It's relatively rare that I completely lose myself in a book and think during the day "I can't wait to get home and read some more of this." The Art of Making Money was one of the books that made me feel that way. It's a page turner for sure

As a connoisseur of non-fiction books about professional thieves, I think that one of common flaws writers make when working in this genre is focusing too much on the court process. I've read books where literally the last half of it describes what happens after the criminal gets caught and is about all the courtroom minutia leading up to their sentence. Kersten didn't fall into this trap, probably because the story of counterfeit money and Art Williams Jr. is genuinely interesting and meaty enough to make a whole book out of without resorting to that.

Another thing Kersten did right was not focusing too much on the police that brought Art down. In most true crime books about thieves there are entire chapters about the detectives assigned to the case and who they are, sometimes you'd almost think the book was about the police officers. Not so here, instead of falsely building up a police hero, Kersten instead talks about Art and the mistakes he made himself which led to his own capture.

And mistakes he did make! While a clever and skilled counterfeiter, Art lacked the maturity, caution, and common sense which are so necessary for long term success in that craft.
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