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Tangled Webs: How False Statements Are Undermining America: From Martha Stewart to Bernie Madoff Paperback – March 27, 2012

4.0 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

James B. Stewart is the author of Heart of a Soldier, the bestsellers Blind Eye and Blood Sport, and the blockbuster Den of Thieves. A former Page One editor at The Wall Street Journal, he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for his reporting on the stock market crash and insider trading.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (March 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143120573
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143120575
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,096,849 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Lying seems epidemic in American society. Stewart focuses his superb writing skills on the general problem of perjury and lying under oath by highlighting the cases of four celebrated liars: Martha Stewart (no apparent relation to the author), Scooter Libby, Barry Bonds, and Bernie Madoff. For each of these, he asks the same question: "Why would people with so much to lose put so much at risk by lying under oath?" Ultimately, the answer becomes obvious: "They thought they could get away with it."

Stewart uses extensive sources for his own narration. Chief among these are notes from investigations, court proceedings, and personal interviews. Although the book is non-fiction, it's a page-turner, because the machinations of the perpetrators and their victims are suspenseful, ensnaring, and powerfully emotional. Each of the perpetrators would ultimately explain their deceits as motivated by "loyalty," but this seems mostly self-serving and devious. Whatever loyalty they had in mind was to themselves, as all were readily prepared to let underlings and associates take hard falls to cushion their own. In the end, most of the celebrity liars recovered reasonably, with the exception of Madoff who will be in prison for a long time and has lost the love of his family and seen one of his sons commit suicide pursuant to the shame he showered on them.

These continuing losses of Madoff as well as those of Bonds, recently convicted of obstruction of justice, aren't covered in the book which was written in 2010 although published in 2011.

This book has several strengths, and perhaps just one weakness. The strengths are the readable and interesting writing, about larger-than-life "heroes" turned "villains.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
"If it wasn't for perjury I'd be out of business."

That always gets some laughs when I say it to clients and to witnesses I am preparing for testimony. I am not encouraging them to lie under oath; quite the opposite. Instead I am telling them a fact of courtroom life-"there are going to be lies told, and you had better be prepared for them." I explain that the fact that people on the other side may lie, it does not allow lies on our side. My job, as a lawyer, is to ferret out those lies and expose them. Once a witness is revealed as a liar on a subject, the witnesses credibility on every subject is shot.

James Stewart, as a journalist and as a lawyer, has seen this epidemic grow. When the rich and powerful like Bill Clinton, Barry Bonds, Bernie Madoff think nothing of rising their right hands, swearing to tell the truth, and lying through their teeth, something has gone terribly wrong. But although James Stewart's excellent book focuses on the lies of the power elite, the truth is that perjury is probably the single-most common crime in America today. And as Stewart notes, its not just the witnesses, lawyers are often the enablers, the messengers of deceit, spreading the word, "we need you to say X". And when X is really Y, that is perjury.

So where does it stop? Hopefully the end begins now. Our nation cannot endure long if truth is simply a commodity, rather than a sacred flame that lights a democratic ideal.

And in spite of the participation of some lawyers in this culture of deception, many of my colleagues before the bar agree with me. When I tell my joke, most don't crack a smile.

Read this book and join the revolution.
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Format: Hardcover
Another masterful work from James B. Stewart. In this book, he touches on themes that everyone is bound to find compelling: mainstream celebrity (Martha Stewart), politics (Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney's former chief of staff), sports (Barry Bonds) and finance (the infamous Bernie Madoff). Unlike many other writers, though, Stewart looks deeply into his subjects and the available data on them, including fascinating court and SEC transcripts that no else bothered with, and that reveal essential details about his subjects. At the same time, he manages to keep the focus on the human condition, including the innocent and not-so-innocent bystanders who were affected and sometimes ruined by the colossal, shameless lies that these "role models" told in official testimony. Stewart makes a strong case for the appearance of a serious fissure in the the legal system that this country depends on for legitimacy, and tells four incredible stories in doing so. Read, learn and be educated and entertained at the same time ...
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
No one is better than James Stewart as a financial feature reporter. He gets to the bottom of a complex series of events and explains them with unsurpassed clarity and objectivity. If you are interested in the subject he's describing, there is no better source for learning about it. And those skills are on display in the four lying-related scandals he discusses here: Martha Stewart, Scooter Libby, Barry Bonds (and other BALCO defendants) and Bernie Madoff. In each story, Stewart's focus is on the lies the subject told to official investigators, and since such lying is much closer to the heart of the Stewart and Libby scandals than to the Bonds and Madoff events (for the latter two, official lies were more of an interesting sidelight than the core of what will put them in the history books), I found those portions of the book the most interesting and enlightening. Indeed, for Martha Stewart and Scooter Libbey, Tangled Webs should stand as the definitive treatment. Read this, and you'll "get it."

In opening and concluding sections, the author ties the four stories together by shucking his customary objectivity for a jeremiade against perjury and official lying. He has passionate feelings on the subject that no doubt were part of the source of his energy that allowed him to so meticulously record these events. While I am more than sympathetic to his views on this point---in my case he is preaching to the choir---I did not find those parts of the book particularly persuasive; they are not the reason to buy it. This may be in part because of the very excellence---the irrefutable, closely documented objectivity---of the main body of the book. This is one book where reading just the first and last chapters is the exact opposite of what you should do.
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