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Publisher's Summary

It was a time when anything seemed possible, instant wealth, glittering fame, fabulous luxury, and for a run of magical weeks in the spring and summer of 1920, Charles Ponzi made it all come true. Promising to double investors' money in three months, the dapper, charming Ponzi raised the "rob Peter to pay Paul" scam to an art form and raked in millions at his office in downtown Boston. Ponzi's Scheme is the amazing true story of the irresistible scoundrel who launched the most successful scheme of financial alchemy in modern history, and uttered the first roar of the Roaring Twenties.

Ponzi may have been a charlatan, but he was also a wonderfully likable man. His intentions were noble, his manners impeccable, his sales pitch enchanting. Born to a genteel Italian family, he immigrated to the United States with big dreams but no money. Only after he became hopelessly enamored of a stenographer named Rose Gnecco and persuaded her to marry him did Ponzi light on the means to make his dreams come true. His true motive was not greed but love.

With rich narrative skill, Mitchell Zuckoff conjures up the feverish atmosphere of Boston during the weeks when Ponzi's bubble grew bigger and bigger. At the peak of his success, Ponzi was taking in more than $2 million a week. And then his house of cards came crashing down, thanks in large part to the relentless investigative reporting of Richard Grozier's Boston Post.

In Zuckoff's hands, Ponzi is no mere swindler; instead he is appealing and magnetic, a colorful and poignant figure, someone who struggled his whole life to attain great wealth and who sincerely believed, to the very end, that he could have made good on his investment promises if only he'd had enough time. Ponzi is a classic American tale of immigrant life and the dream of success, and the unexpectedly moving story of a man who, for a fleeting, illusory moment, attained it all.

©2005 Mitchell Zuckoff; (P)2005 Books on Tape, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Zuckoff...tells Ponzi's story amicably and briskly, and keeps the complicated financial intricacies understandable." (The New York Times Book Review)
"Zuckoff's biography of Ponzi is meticulously accurate, based on memoirs and newspaper accounts of the day, weaving the story of the rise of this small-time Italian immigrant with that of Richard Grozier, second-generation editor of the Boston Post." (Booklist)

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Surprised by how much I enjoyed this

This biography and examination of the times really flows like a novel, which is a nice surprise. Also a nice surprise was the great narration - I found I listened to this book almost straight through and turned it on at every opportunity. It was very entertaining, and really highlighted the Roaring Twenties as a time of change, hope, surprise, and a feeling that anything was possible.

Charles Ponzi was only a part of that time, but the story behind the household name was interesting. Unlike some other reviewers, I didn't find that the depiction of this swindler was sympathetic at all, but I do agree that it portrayed him as human.....because that's what he was. It's good to understand that swindlers and greedy people without ethics also have families and dreams - they don't act like bastards, they don't have horns, they don't have a dark cloud about them. They are often charming, friendly people with nice smiles and good families. Proof that it doesn't take a lot to separate greedy people from their money. I wish we could say that the massive "robbing Peter to pay Paul" swindles ended with the stock crash in 1929, but there are still hundreds of millions of dollars being lost to Ponzi schemes today, so it looks like not many people have learned from the mistakes of those past victims of charmers like Ponzi.

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