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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars stomach churning
If you've ever thought about selling securities for a living, this book should make up your mind; that is, if you accept Mr. Vonnegut's vision of the business. I would have enjoyed "Top Producer" just for that nightmarish vision, but there's a lot more.

Here's the set-up: Grove O'Rourke is a top salesman at a big brokerage house. When his best friend dies in...
Published on May 31, 2009 by M. S. Butch

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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars There's A Good Book Here...
There's a good book here if you trim away the excessive jargon and inadequately explained concepts. I'm sure there are many thousands of people who know all about the stock, banking, and investment terms that author Norb Vonnegut uses, but there are many millions (myself included)who have only a limited expertise here. Vonnegut does offer explanations on occasion, but...
Published on July 8, 2009 by C.Wallace


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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars stomach churning, May 31, 2009
By 
M. S. Butch (Katonah, New York USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Top Producer: A Novel (Hardcover)
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If you've ever thought about selling securities for a living, this book should make up your mind; that is, if you accept Mr. Vonnegut's vision of the business. I would have enjoyed "Top Producer" just for that nightmarish vision, but there's a lot more.

Here's the set-up: Grove O'Rourke is a top salesman at a big brokerage house. When his best friend dies in a strange incident, he agrees to help the widow, also a long-time friend, and the former roommate of Grove's dead wife, to wind up the decedent's business. Stuff happens.

I can't say a lot more without spoiling the fun, but the story races by, filled with back-stabbing colleagues, evil in-house lawyers, and ordinary thugs, none of whom want Grove to complete his mission. The author's expertise in the business is apparent in every vivid and miserable detail of Grove's daily life and, of course, in the unraveling mystery at the heart of things.

I read "Top Producer" cover to cover and enjoyed every minute. My one real criticism is that some of the characters don't make a lot of sense, and the resolution would be more satisfying if a little more thought had been put into them. (I apologize for the vagueness, but again, I don't want to give the story away!)
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deserves to be a huge bestseller, June 20, 2009
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HeyJudy "heyjudy" (East Hampton, NY USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Top Producer: A Novel (Hardcover)
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Before you start reading TOP PRODUCER, clear your calendar. You're not going to want to put it down until you finish the last page. This book has everything going for it to become a huge bestseller and, eventually, a hit movie.

The novel is centered on Wall Street at the present moment in time. How much of this story was inspired by recent current events and how much, independently, was the product of a fertile and informed imagination is impossible to discern from the tale.

Yet how the plot came to be hatched is irrelevant in the reading. This is a brilliant work.

Author Norb Vonnegut displays an insider's knowledge of the trading world, making it come alive for an outsider. At times, the narrative almost approaches a primer on investing.

The mystery opens with one of the most imaginative (and repulsive)murders in the history of fiction. At a quick pace, it moves on to stock manipulation and Securities fraud, complete with partners-in-crime, double-crosses and triple-crosses. A couple of characters are implausible but not impossible ... and even the greatest writers sometimes rely on coincidence to advance their stories, as Vonnegut does here.

He has crafted an intricate and compelling plot that achieves the ultimate thriller status, keeping one absorbed way into the wee hours of the morning. And, best of all -- and rarely true in popular fiction -- Vonnegut displays immense command of language. Taken together, TOP PRODUCER is a winner in every sense.

Don't miss this one!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars interesting twist on whodunit murder mystery, highly recommended!!, July 19, 2009
This review is from: Top Producer: A Novel (Hardcover)
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Top Producer presents an interesting twist on a whodunit murder mystery. Grove O'Rourke is a young investment broker and one of the top producers at a famous investment firm in New York. When his wealthy, free-spending best friend is killed at a lavish birthday party in an extremely bizarre way right in front of him and 500 other guests, he wants to know why. When his friend's widow pleads poverty and asks him for help in untangling their finances, the search for answers becomes urgent. The friend ran a one-man investment company and covered his tracks well. Grove starts digging, first for the widow's sake and later on behalf of other investor/friends who want to know where their money is. Adding to his anguish about his friends's murder, he also feels guilty because he suggested the location where the murder took place. He is also still suffering from the sudden death of his own beloved wife and child 18 months earlier.

I found the book very intriguing on a lot of levels, examining friendships, which are not always what we think they are, the mysteries of investment finance and how someone's reputation and livelihood can be destroyed almost instantly. I actually found the information on intricate finance/investment and brokers' strategy, which is the backdrop to the story, more interesting than the murder, which I solved long before the end (I knew who, but not why). Throughout the story, Mr. Vonnegut provided brief explanations on arcane stuff like hedge funds, selling short and margin calls, in layman's terms so even someone like me, who knows very little about investment finance, could understand. Although I had some minor quibbles with the book, they were not sufficient to detract from the overall story. This was a solid read; I look forward to his next book.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally Wall Street has its John Grisham, August 24, 2009
This review is from: Top Producer: A Novel (Hardcover)
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Norb Vonnegut is to Wall Street as John Grisham is to the legal world. I look forward to reading more of his books. "Top Producer" is a timely, fun story that kept me reading past my usual, few chapters a night. The book is full of Wall Street lingo and provides insight as to the way Wall Street functions and how the different players think. Norb hits it dead on in describing how managers, the legal dept. and "top producers" think and what motivates them. I also enjoyed the twists and turns as well as the references to the different parts of NYC. All in all it's a fun and exciting read!

Norb, stop in Station Plaza Wine & Spirits in town for a Prosecco on the house.

Kevin
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars There's A Good Book Here..., July 8, 2009
This review is from: Top Producer: A Novel (Hardcover)
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There's a good book here if you trim away the excessive jargon and inadequately explained concepts. I'm sure there are many thousands of people who know all about the stock, banking, and investment terms that author Norb Vonnegut uses, but there are many millions (myself included)who have only a limited expertise here. Vonnegut does offer explanations on occasion, but it's hit and miss. It just seems to me that Vonnegut (Harvard MBA, years of experience at Morgan Stanley and Paine Webber) is trying to overwhelm the reader with his "insider" knowledge.

There's a good book here if you cut several of the characters. People who do seem essential to the plot include the narrator, Grover ("Grove") O'Rourke, a self-described "top-producer" of multi-million dollar stock deals; Charlie Kelemen, the victim of a bizarre "murder-by-shark" plot; Kelemen's grieving (or is it scheming?) widow; a few of O'Rourke's colleagues and customers in the pressure-cooker world of high finance; a couple of the victims of a Ponzi scheme; and the mastermind behind the murder. But I often found myself trying to recall how other characters fit in. I didn't really care enough to go back in the book to check.

Indeed, there's a good book here if you whittle away most of the first two thirds. The last third is taut and exciting; the earlier part of the book often drags along after a rather dramatic introduction.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nobody Declares Stolen Money On Income......, June 10, 2009
This review is from: Top Producer: A Novel (Hardcover)
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Top Producer mixes the complex workings of Wall Street and fits them into a gruesome crime. Vonnegut catches the reader in the first chapters with one of the best murder scenes I have read. This is the ghastly death of Charlie Keleman murdered in an aquarium who is the best friend of our main character, Grove O'Rourke. Since Grove is devastated by Charlie's murder, he wants to find the killer and in doing so, we learn about Charlie's lavish life, which appears to be possible by using investors' money. Sound familiar? Bernie Madoff in a different set up but a Ponzi scheme none the less.

There are many characters, some who are important to the plot and some who are superfluous. It is not too difficult to figure out the murderer but there are other twists which enhance the story and make it fascinating.

Grove is a Top Producer, one who represents rich investors and through his expertise, keeps their wealth growing. To do this, he needs to know how trades and markets work. If you have never traded or shorted stock or participated in the bond market, Vonnegut can confuse many readers. The gist of the plot is the rules: SEC rules, house rules, trading rules, etc. It is amazing with all these regulations that Madoff was able to carry out his investment scheme with no investments. Vonnegut has us believe that the slightest infraction is caught and punished.

The victim, Keleman, has ruined good people and we meet some of them, but there is more to the set up. There is his beautiful wife, Sam, who is shocked that she has no money and finds herself pregnant. Grove is a wonderful friend and he is empathetic to Sam and small retail investors who lost their life savings. He suffered tragic human loss which makes his responses believable. Even as a Top Producer, he appears ethical, tough, smart and sympathetic which makes the plot somewhat realistic. However, if the reader is not familiar with more advanced trading, Vonnegut can lose his audience. Very dark money and tenuous friendships are food for the sharks.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Accurate Insider's View and a Compelling Story to Boot, July 12, 2009
This review is from: Top Producer: A Novel (Hardcover)
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Sometimes when an insider in a specialized area such as high finance tries to write a novel set in the world they know so well, the story-telling suffers. Not so in "Top Producer." Norb Vonnegut's story is riveting and compelling and the book is a genuine page-turner.

I won't spoil things by revealing anything of the plot, other than that a Wall Street fund manager is murdered in full view of the public in a most bizarre manner. The rest of the novel details the efforts of the protagonist to uncover what lies behind the murder.

But it's the way life on the Street is woven into the narrative that really makes the book stand out from the crowd. Mr. Vonnegut is an insider with many years of experience in the environment he describes. Fortunately, he is a talented writer and excellent story-teller. The novel is written in the first person, with some unique stylistic twists that give the narrative immediacy and credibility. By the time you've finished the book you'll feel that you really know something about the competitive, high-pressure world of the financial stars. To use a common phrase, you'll feel like you've been there. And you have.

The plot unfolds in a sort of incremental fashion, each little addition heightening the suspense and tension. The surprising ending--- you're very unlikely to work it out on your own--- ties things together nicely, but not artificially. You'll feel satisfied but not swindled.

To be sure there are some problems. A few of the scenes don't seem properly motivated and are a bit too drawn out compared to others, which are a bit too short. Some of the language and idioms are rather raw. Overall, the novel could have been shorter.

But if you have even a passing interest in the world of finance, and what goes on at its top levels, and if you enjoy a well-written, suspenseful murder mystery, you'll certainly want to read this book, and you'll hope that the author continues to pursue his new career as a writer of fiction.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Smart, engaging and satisfying, if not perfect, July 8, 2009
This review is from: Top Producer: A Novel (Hardcover)
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I just like Grove O'Rourke. In the end that's what it boils down to. This character makes no excuses for what he does for a living. He manages people's investments to make their over-all wealth more secure. Greed is just part and parcel of the process. Greed is never praised as a good thing, and Norb Vonnegut never tries to paint that greed as noble, excusable or even "just the way things are". He doesn't have to make the latter case because there's no point in laboring over the obvious.

The murder is more complex than it is first suggested. A lot of people want easy mystery to solve, whether they admit it or not. In fact this book has the rare gift of not wrapping everything up in a neat package (though some parts are a bit too neat). It's a smart storyteller who decides that just enough information is enough. The complexities of both the markets and our legal justice system deserve more than simple summations and the process is never neat or easy. I'm glad he decided to pass on that cliche of the quick wrap up. In fact he goes one better; he fooled me into believing there was a good chance of a neat wrap-up!

There is a lot of fast coverage of the markets and how they work, but the complexity is beyond the author to glibly make them easily understandable. Instead he plants a seed of known concepts and hopes it's enough for the reader to grasp.
The analytical readers out there can give it a whirl.
On the other hand if those lacking market details were meant to keep me from enjoying the book, well, they didn't. It's a given that no one should expect to be an expert about anything as complex as the markets by reading a work of fiction. What I did glean from this story was effective for setting the concepts, the plot, as well as establishing the lives of those making a living in the markets.
(An example of this authors genuine experience in this story is when he describes the after lunch smell of take-out food (from all over the world made available to those on Wall Street) in the waste bins in the office. As the afternoon grinds along those who created the smell now have to deal with those ripening odors. This description of that situation is among my favorites in the book. It's not that he wastes a lot of time describing it. It's that he takes the time to plant it in my mind and walk away. Another example are his descriptions of some of the woman in the story that are both tantalizing and respectful.)

Norb Vonnegut is a descriptive and gifted storyteller. There were times when his descriptions and analogies seemed to go a bit long but in persevering and reading every word I was always happy he went on with what should have been over-kill. It's just Grove. He's that kind of guy.
Making the reader care about absolute strangers is just the first part of telling a story. In this case he gives reasons to like these people (even when they are annoying) as well as sympathize with the predicaments they find themselves in. When the eventual questions start to nag at our protagonist they bothered me as well.

I look forward to his next book.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly Enjoyable Read, July 26, 2009
By 
James R. Spitznas (Purcellville, VA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Top Producer: A Novel (Hardcover)
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Rather than reiterate what others have said, I will simply say that this was the most entertaining book that I've read in quite a while and there was no question in making a 5 star award. My only disappointment upon turning the last page of "Top Producer" is that this is the author's freshman effort so I will have to wait a while to read something else by Norb Vonnegut. The author's writing style is perfect for the genre and I found "Top Producer" to be a not only a good mystery but rather humorous in numerous places (think Office Space). Highly recommended!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More Suspense, February 12, 2014
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This review is from: Top Producer: A Novel (Hardcover)
I had never heard of this writer, but since his name reminded me of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. I had to try this one. I am not sorry I did! Excellent suspense and intrigue!
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Top Producer: A Novel
Top Producer: A Novel by Norb Vonnegut (Hardcover - September 15, 2009)
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