"Octopus: Sam Israel, the Secret Market, and Wall Street's Wildest Con," by Guy Lawson
Jeff Glor: What inspired you to write the book?
Guy Lawson: When I first talked to Sam Israel in prison I thought I was working on a story about a Wall Street fraudster--at the time the biggest ever. But Israel started to tell me this entirely different story about a secret bond market and the CIA and how the Federal Reserve is running a Ponzi scheme. It was literally incredible--as in unbelievable. But those are the kinds of stories I'm drawn to--stories that prove how much stranger fact is than fiction.
JG: What surprised you the most during the writing process?
GL: How much truth there was to Israel's stories. The wilder and taller the tales got, the more there was a basis in historical reality. Like the existence of Federal Reserve bonds stolen from the Chinese government by the Japanese during the Rape of Nanking in the Second World War. At the height of his fraud, as Israel was trying to find a way to make $150 million very, very quickly to save Bayou and himself, he fell in with a CIA operative in London who told him about these mythical bonds. They were hidden in caves in the south of the Philippines. The CIA operative told Israel they were worth billions. It's a lunatic story--on the surface. But when I reported the story I discovered that there actually is a chance the bonds are real. Leading historians and special forces soldiers all said there was more than a little truth to the legend called Yamashita's Gold.
JG: What would you be doing if you weren't a writer?
GL: I'm a recovering attorney (I take it one day at a time) so I think I might be a criminal defense lawyer. It was my favorite class in law school. I loved the stories, the investigations, the human drama--and the fact that the stakes are so high. But the truth is that I'm very glad I don't have to do all the hard work of preparing for trials, nor do I have to deal with all the tedious stuff involved in practicing the law. One way or another, I'd be involved in crime--in a good way, that is.
JG: What else are you reading right now?
GL: I just finished Alex Berenson's novel "The Shadow Patrol." It's an excellent thriller set in Afghanistan. I'm also a big fan of Ben McIntyre's books "Agent Zig Zag" and "Mincemeat" and really look forward to "Double Cross."
JG: What's next for you?
GL: I'm working on a book about these two young stoner dudes from Miami Beach who won a $300 million contract to supply ammunition to the Pentagon for the Afghanistan army. The book is based on a story I wrote for Rolling Stone. It's a truly rip roaring tale filled with weed, weapons, and wartime deceptions. It involves the Pentagon, the State Department, the Justice Department, the New York Times, and the government of Albania. Like I said, I'm drawn to unusual tales.
For more on "Octopus" visit the Random House website.
Hear what the author had to say when he appeared on "CBS This Morning" by clicking on the video below.
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