Book Reviews

“Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice”

Jim Urie recommended this book. Yes, the man who used to run Universal Distribution, the guy who was featured so prominently in the Tower Records documentary. And I didn’t expect it to be good, after all, it was released over a year ago and I’d never heard of it, but…

I started the sample chapter just so I could tell Jim I did, give it a shot, but I was immediately hooked and I believe you will be too.

“Red Notice” is the story of one Bill Browder, whose grandfather ran for President as a Communist, whose parents were real lefties, who became a capitalist in reaction to all that.

Bill went to Stanford Business School. All the press goes to Harvard, Kellogg and Wharton, but the graduates of Stanford have an advantage, it’s about a small team throughout your education and you use these relationships…

Bill did not use these relationships, because he didn’t want to do what they all wanted to do. He wanted to work in Russia. Back before the wall fell and Communism imploded. “Red Notice” is the TRUE story of his exploits, and the hair will rise on the back of your neck as you read it.

You see Putin was after Bill Browder. For making so much money in Russia by revealing corruption.

Well, that’s not how he started. Actually, Browder started in Poland, as a consultant, on a bus deal, he worked his way to Russia, after getting Edmond Safra to invest in his fund. You see, Browder figured out the Russian stock market was incredibly undervalued, and that shares distributed to the public were actually more valuable than preferred, voting shares.

You don’t have to know anything about finance to read this book, never mind enjoy it. It’s really about how one man finds an edge and exploits it. Do you have the insight, do you have the balls?

Most don’t have the insight, that’s the failing of our educational system, we don’t teach people how to analyze, we teach to the test, to our society’s detriment. It’s only at the elite institutions that analytical skills are taught. I’ll give you an example. At Middlebury there were no objective tests, no multiple choice, no true/false, every test was a three hour essay exam, you had to argue your case.

And you hung with people who argued all day long.

But when I went to college back in the seventies, this was long before the era of entrepreneurship, this was when life was about personal fulfillment as opposed to cash. Browder is interested in the cash. And when you make that much, people don’t like it. His lawyer got killed.

That’s right, I’m reading the book feeling inadequate, how I don’t take these kinds of risks, and then the attorney is beaten to death in prison and I tell myself if that’s the cost, I’m out.

And Browder echoes this sentiment in the end.

But before that…

The first half of the book is an adventure story, as in going to different places and having one. I love when Browder and buddy crash the World Economic Forum in Davos. Success is about chutzpah.

The second half is about trying to get justice for the fallen attorney. And it’s not as good, it reads as self-justification, even if Browder’s motives are pure.

But it’s all true.

Sure, we heard about Putin and Sochi, even about Ukraine, but “Red Notice” will give you a feel for the corruption throughout Russia, it will make you glad you live in the United States, it will make you anxious every time Donald says something positive about Vladimir.

“Luckiest Girl Alive”

“Red Notice” is a better book. It calls out to you when you’re lying in bed, going through the day’s travails.

But it’s tough to put Jessica Knoll’s “Luckiest Girl Alive” down.

“Luckiest Girl Alive” is fiction. It’s billed as a mystery/thriller, and there’s an aspect that hits that chord, but really…it’s an expose on high school and outsiders.

Do you feel like an outsider?

I most certainly do. I attribute it to my dad, who never adhered to the conventional wisdom, who always went his own way. Listen to Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast “The Big Man Can’t Shoot” on this subject:

“The Big Man Can’t Shoot”

Turns out the underhand free throw is much more efficient than the overhand one. But people are too embarrassed to use it.

As for Gladwell’s “Revisionist History”…it’s extremely well done, make it your number one podcast, a position it usually holds on the chart. HOWEVER, Gladwell has an agenda. And it’s usually one of taking the top people, the elite, down. That’s a thread throughout his work. That those who go to top universities falter, that you can get just as good an education at a state school and can possibly achieve greater career goals because of the lesser competition. In the episode “Food Fight”, Gladwell takes a swipe at Bowdoin College, says not to go there, because of its great food. That Vassar is the better choice, even if it serves inferior food, because it has more Pell Grant attendees. But that’s not the only mark of financial aid/helping the underprivileged. Bowdoin helps the poor by having need blind admissions and giving a ton of money in financial aid. Furthermore, the food program is self-sustaining, there’s no endowment money used. But Gladwell has an agenda. And when confronted, he doubles down on Twitter, going on about steak and lobster dinners, even though that’s only twice a year and on the second date it’s mostly paid for by attendees, the families of Bowdoin graduates. But never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

And the fact is Jessica Knoll WAS raped. It came out much later, that’s right, “Luckiest Girl Alive” features a rape, but it’s got so much more than that. It’s got…the privileged versus the wannabe. The marriage for safety. And the desire to prove to those who put you down that you’ve made it, using your success to prove your worth.

“Luckiest Girl Alive” sometimes is so inside and obtuse in its language and sentence construction you don’t know what is being said. I read slowly, for content. And in this case I found it’s best to keep reading, most is revealed. It’s kind of like listening to a teen tell his or her story, a convoluted trip through an amusement park that only exists in their own mind.


The emotions are so right.

You want to fit in, so you make one bad choice after another.

Kids are vicious, they bully.

And those with money win in the end.

And the end of this book is marginally unsatisfying. But the trip there…

If you weren’t popular in high school but wanted to be. If you think you are entitled to recognition but no one else sees it that way. If you…

Want to know how the east coast thinks…

“Not everyone is flush on the Main Line, but the priorities are certainly different than the kind I’d grown up with. Education, travel, culture – this is what any pennies pinched should be used for, never flashy cars, loud logos, or personal maintenance.”

If you grew up on the Main Line, in Philadelphia, or any other enclave of east coast pretentiousness, you’ll understand this completely. If you didn’t… This is the ethos of those who truly run America. Start here. But even more amazing is those who adhere to this ethos don’t know that other people see the world differently. TiFani’s mother drives a leased BMW, she’s got to, for her image. She makes sure TiFani is wearing makeup, the mother always has her look on. I never encountered this viewpoint until I moved to the west coast, where image oftentimes trumps substance.

But not really.

“Luckiest Girl Alive” is a good ride. Just enough plot to keep you moving forward, but it’s the insight that grabs you.

So many of today’s vaunted books don’t hit the high note, they ultimately disappoint. And sadly, “Luckiest Girl Alive” does too. But not as much as this summer’s “Sweetbitter,” which gets better towards the end, but is vastly overrated, as is “The Girls,” which is essentially unreadable, because of the endless digression into description, but…

In order to review a book you have to read it. And that takes a lot more effort than listening to a song. So, most people are excluded. But those who remain are members of a secret society. And when they tell you about something and it resonates you smile.

Someone e-mailed me about “Luckiest Girl Alive.” I spent the last twenty four hours reading it.

I can’t think of a better way to spend a day.

One Response to Book Reviews


    comment_type != "trackback" && $comment->comment_type != "pingback" && !ereg("", $comment->comment_content) && !ereg("", $comment->comment_content)) { ?>
  1. Pingback by Book Reviews – Supervisor Wire | 2016/08/02 at 16:11:10

    […] read the entire article here […]

comment_type == "trackback" || $comment->comment_type == "pingback" || ereg("", $comment->comment_content) || ereg("", $comment->comment_content)) { ?>

Trackbacks & Pingbacks »»

  1. Pingback by Book Reviews – Supervisor Wire | 2016/08/02 at 16:11:10

    […] read the entire article here […]

Comments are closed