POWER FAILURE: The Inside Story of the Collapse of Enron

Mimi Swartz, Author, Sherrin Watkins, With with Sherron Watkins. Doubleday $26 (400p) ISBN 978-0-385-50787-5

Although Watkins, the Enron executive who wrote the anonymous memo that blew the company's troubles wide open, is listed as this book's coauthor, the writing appears to be all Swartz. The Texas Monthly editor uses Watkins as an extensive source and treats her career at Enron as a major narrative thread, but her account of the energy company's financial misdealings casts a much wider net. The book offers particularly strong perspective on some of Enron's wilder escapades, like its disastrous foray into Internet broadcasting, and an unsettling body of evidence about Enron's possible manipulation of California's energy crisis. It does a stunning job of chronicling the power games within Enron. (Although he's not named as a source, it seems likely former CEO Jeff Skilling must have granted at least one interview off the record.) This version of Enron's history is as richly detailed as Robert Bryce's Pipe Dreams, but without that version's overtly moralizing tone; Swartz lets the facts speak for themselves. Watkins's input, interspersed throughout the story, offers a personal perspective on the cutthroat competition among the "hungry, restless, and tightly wound" Enron staffers, especially when she herself is at her most aggressive. The depiction of her gradual awareness that something was wrong, and her efforts to get her superiors to address the problem, helps make the financial crisis understandable on an emotional as well as an informational level, and provides an effective anchor to all the other sides of Enron Swartz includes. (Mar. 25)

Forecast:Although it's possible that the reading public's interest in Enron has faded, Watkins's name on this book's cover and the timing—a good six months after the rush of Enron books—will help sales. The authors will appear on Dateline NBC, Today, Larry King Live and NPR's Fresh Air.

Reviewed on: 03/24/2003
Release date: 03/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 261 pages - 978-0-385-50888-9
Paperback - 432 pages - 978-0-7679-1368-3
Compact Disc - 978-0-553-75636-4
Downloadable Audio - 1 pages - 978-1-4159-5351-8
Compact Disc - 978-0-7366-9288-5
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