Monday, May 23, 2011

Ignorance, Confidence & Filthy Rich Friends: The Business Adventures of Mark Twain, Chronic Speculator and Entrepreneur

There have been many books on Mark Twain, but none have fully developed his rabid entrepreneurial side and pursuit of great wealth in the spirit of the robber barons until now. In Ignorance, Confidence, and Filthy Rich Friends, Peter Krass explores this oft-neglected side of Twain's life as he uncovers his rollercoaster ride through America's Industrial Revolution. Krass not only captures Twain's rich experiences, but his voice, which was acerbic and hilarious, gloomy and exuberant, painfully blunt yet always instructive.

Twain founded his own publishing house where he made a killing of $2.5 million in today's dollars by publishing General Ulysses S. Grants memoirs. He was a venture capitalist who made significant investments in some 20 start-up firms and inventions; a Wall Street investor with a sizable stock portfolio; a pioneer in salesmanship; a brilliant public speaker; and a hard-nosed negotiator. He even set aside writing Huckleberry Finn to focus on his own inventions.

From his tremendous breadth of experience, Twain became a savvy businessman in his own right and befriended tycoons like Andrew Carnegie and Henry "Hell Hound" Rogers, the latter John D Rockefeller's right hand man. But he made his blunders too that put him on the brink of personal bankruptcy. Krass captures the drama in a unique business narrative that follows Twain's evolution as an entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and passionate investor.