Tuesday, January 15, 2013

From Today's Headlines - A Review of "Scam Factory"

Today we have a book on a subject straight from the headlines.  White-collar crime has been at the forefront of our world for many years.  Now we have an "inside" view in G. Gordon Dean's novel, "Scam Factory".  Let the review begin!

Book Summary:
Whoever said 'white-collar crime doesn’t pay' never lived in Washington D.C. TierGroup is a business consultancy firm located in the heart of DC. Its Division Heads have a very cold and calculating unorthodox approach to conducting business. Protecting and serving their clients is the only thing that matters. Nevertheless, loyalty can swing both ways in this journey through greed, corruption, and absolute lack of accountability.

As a former Las Vegas Casino Surveillance Director, Michael Crayter, a straight shooter, becomes an unaware, almost, employee of TierGroup in mid-2001. His transformation takes many shapes from idea man to fraud guru. He embarks on a journey to Iraq, through Hurricane Katrina and eventually takes part in one of the biggest scams in the history of the United States - the TARP funding program. His boss, Charles “The Czar” Zarin, is the ultimate manipulation mentor. Michael Crayter’s experience will last for more than eight years and will make his old Vegas job seem like child’s play.

The investment opportunities the United States has to offer during this timeframe are seemingly endless and the public joins in on the greed. The whole country is riding high on the inflated value train with careless abandonment. There are no regulations followed or laws unbroken by the Mortgage Lenders, Stock Brokers, and Bankers. The bubble is getting bigger and the clock is ticking. It's every man for himself. Divide and conquer. Borrow and spend. No one sees the tsunami coming, except for Charles Zarin. Capitalism will be turned upside down and the money spigot will run dry.

By late 2007 the bubble bursts and our country’s economy is left in ruins. The Treasury is sent in to bail out the white-collar thieves. While losing most of its clients TierGroup and Michael Crayter are left to fend for themselves. The tables are turned on the fat-cat bankers who caused the meltdown. Michael Crayter uses his hard gained experience to get even with the fake bastards. Almost everyone loyal to TierGroup gets away with highway robbery and the American taxpayer is left holding the bag. Michael Crayter begins to tell his story, in this Four Part first-person narrative, during a 2005 interview at FBI headquarters in Washington D.C.

My Review:
Initially when presented with the book summary, I looked forward to reading this book.  As a former banker at one time affected by failures and resulting bank closures, I thought "Scam Factory" offered an interesting premise I could comprehend.

Our protagonist, Michael Crayter, is tapped by the head of one of the largest and most prestigious D.C. consulting firms to give up his job in Las Vegas to move to the East Coast to be groomed to lead TierGroup one day.  There he finds a company corrupted by power and greed.

In the summary we're told Michael is a straight-shooter who is unaware of the deep-seated issues beating at the heart of the company.  However, from practically day one he is acknowledging and participating in underhanded, unethical, and eventually highly illegal activities with no sense of remorse.  This certainly didn't fit with the provided description.  I found no redeeming quality about Michael throughout the reading of the novel.

TierGroup consists of four "tiers" with one man heading each tier and ultimately the fourth man over the other three and the entire company.  When introduced to each of these tier heads, there is little to differentiate each man other than a brief appearance description.  Otherwise, they all appear to act and talk the same to Michael as they describe what it is they are responsible for within the overall scheme of the company.  They come across not as flesh and blood characters but caricatures, flat and one-dimensional. 

That leads me to the biggest issue I had with reading "Scam Factory".  From the moment Michael arrives at TierGroup, the book takes on a tone of what I call an info-dump.  Page after page involves nothing but dialogue of each tier head describing their department functions.  At times, it almost felt like the characters were practically yelling - talking "at" me instead of "to" me as a reader.  I hoped it was only going to be in these chapters as Michael makes his way around the company, but this info-dump pretty much continued throughout the remainder of the book.

Psychic distance was a huge issue for me as well.  At no time did I as a reader ever feel like I was in Michael's or any other characters' point-of-view.  Just the continual dialogue and info-dumping, taking on a more omniscient point-of-view at best.  The part that really frustrated me as a reader was when the Arabic translator was talking between Michael and the Iraqi group and the translator was saying things in Arabic to the Iraqis outside of what he was supposed to be telling them (giving away secret information about the operation, location of currency, etc.).  This wouldn't have been a problem if we were in the translator's POV but this was not the case.  It was a very disjointed and jarring section.

I'm also accustomed to reading alot of different material - and most involve various levels of cursing.  Normally this is never an issue, but I found the constant refrain of the "f" word and the characters calling each other such to be excessive.  Usage every once in awhile would have had more impact, but at times it seemed as if it were nearly every couple of words, which just grew obnoxious.

If you'd like to get some varying degrees of what happens behind the scenes when power and greed run amuck, consider picking up a copy of G. Gordon Dean's "Scam Factory".

G. Gordon Dean's Bio:
G. Gordon Dean is a Real Estate agent and Business Consultant currently living in Arizona. He has been a media buff for over two decades. As a media buff he has kept himself well aware of past and current events in business, government, and politics. He lived in Las Vegas, Nevada for over 30 years. This is his first novel.

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  1. D A, thanks for bringing your banking acumen and personal experience to your review of G. Gordon's book. I appreciated your insider insight.

  2. I'm just terribly sorry about the pictures fiasco. Still working on it and trying to resolve at some point.