Trust Me: Charles Keating and the Missing Millions

Charles Bowden, Author, Michael Binstein, With
Charles Bowden, Author, Michael Binstein, With Random House (NY) $25 (420p) ISBN 978-0-679-41699-9
Reviewed on: 05/31/1993
Release date: 06/01/1993
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Blending detailed reportage with an ironic, conversational style full of interior monologue, Binstein, co-byliner with syndicated columnist Jack Anderson, and Bowden ( Killing the Hidden Waters ) have written a mesmerizing tale about the enigmatic Phoenix bank manipulator Charles Keating, his bizarre, cult-like fiefdom and the investigation that put him behind bars for his role in the nation's most notorious bank fraud. The authors construct an episodic mosaic, jumping back and forth in time. They sketch scenes of life inside Keating's American Continental Corporation (owner of Lincoln Savings and Loan), where the boss capriciously rewarded and terrorized his staff. They offer mini-profiles of Keating's haunted underlings, tantalized by lucre, their personal lives crumbling. They follow Mike Manning, Keating's righteous government tracker who creates a new lexicon of financial terms--``upstreaming cash,'' ``straw buyers,'' etc.--to argue a big case. They tell of Edwin Gray, the nervous, isolated federal bank regulator who faced the wrath of Keating and his cronies. Most of all, they focus on the charismatic, risk-loving, intimidating 65 ``Charlie'' Keating. Obsessed from the start of his Cincinnati legal career with matching his client, local financier Carl Lindner, Keating became a nationally known anti-pornography crusader (who nevertheless liked to ogle women) and later moved in 1978 to Phoenix. There, in a boomtown stoked by Reagan-era deregulation, the high-living Keating gambled nearly a billion dollars of Lincoln's assets in an astonishing series of sham deals. In 1992, the 68-year-old Keating, denying wrongdoing, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for fraud and fined $250,000; he has since been found guilty of additional charges. The authors give some credence to Keating's dealmaking dreams and, citing Keating's religious mores and lavish tastes, suggest he was an emblem of the United States in the 1980s. (June)
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