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Gordon at Penguin:
"American Greed" to Feature Art Williams's story. (3-28-11)
CNBC's hit series, "American Greed," has produced a show about Art Williams. It will first air on Wednesday, March 31, at 12:03am ET. Chicago-based Kurtis Prodcutions sent a crew out to New York to interview me last fall. They did an impressively thorough job; they even sent a crew to Alaska. The show also features interviews with family members, even some audio of Art.
Art Williams Transferred, Reunited with Son. (3-28-11)
Art has been transferred from FCI Big Spring in Texas to FCI Forrest City, Arkansas. Amazingly, this is the same prison where his son, Art III, is currently serving out his own sentence for counterfeiting. So in yet another patrilineal twist, father and son are now together in the same lockup. "It was an emotional experience, seeing him in the housing unit," Art recently told me over the phone. "He said he blamed himself for my arrest. I told him that there was only one person at fault: me. We're taking it slow, trying to rebuild, doing a lot of talking."
The Great Lakes Indendependent Booksellers Association, selects The Art of Making Money as a Great Lakes, Great Read. (7-10-10)
Many thanks and regards to this outstanding association of over 150 independent bookstores. As indies, they can be assured that Art Williams never passed a bad bill between their walls. Support mom & pop bookstores!
Washington Post selects The Art of Making Money as a Best Book of 2009! (12/12/09)
A heartfelt thanks to the editors and writers at the WP.
Pine and Caruso Sign On, Paramount taps Megan Fox.
According to producer Paul Pompian, Chris Pine and D.J. Caruso have indeed signed on to star in and direct The Art of Making Money! The skinny is that Paramount is now in talks with Megan Fox (Transformers) to play Natalie. Not that my opinion matters at Paramount, but I think Fox would be a nice fit. If she signs, that would leave about four major characters left to cast. Impossible not to play this game, so here are my fantasy picks...
Malinda Williams: Charlize Theron
Pete Da Vinci: Ed Norton
Art Senior: Daniel Day Lewis
Anice Williams: Sharon Stone
Paramount Sets Sights on 'Money Men.' (10/12/09)According the cover of today's Variety, Paramount is in negociations with actor Chris Pine (Star Trek) and director D.J. Caruso (Eagle Eye, Disturbia) to star in and direct The Art of Making Money. Exciting stuff, if true. The Hollywood gossip sites are reprinting the story like crazy, along with some innacuracies. The Variety article incorrectly states that Art Williams is an "alias." As people who actually read the book know, that's his real name.
Paramount exercises option for The Art of Making Money (8/25/09)
It's official: After four years, Paramount Pictures has finally exercised its option to make a movie based on the 2005 Rolling Stone article. Will it turn from juicy grape to rotting raisin on the Hollywood development vine, or will it actually make it to the big screen? Stay tuned.
Secret Service Confiscates Bill from Author (7/11/09)
“What a perfect artifact to show readers,” I thought. “I’ll bring this to book signings and media appearances. People will be able to see Art’s work for themselves!”
Naturally, I took precautions. The United States Secret Service is infamously zealous when it comes to protecting the currency (in one incident from olden days, they ordered a Philadelphia baker to cease and desist making cookies that resembled George Washington’s profile). I bought a stamp kit and branded both sides of the bill with the word “COUNTERFEIT” in bright red ink, and also purchased a plastic collector’s sleeve. These gestures, along with the obvious context that I was not a counterfeiter—just a guy who wrote about one—made it abundantly clear that I had no interest in circulating the bill. But as I headed off on my book tour, I still wondered: would the Secret Service allow me to publicly flaunt one of Art Williams’s counterfeit bills?
My first appearances with Art’s bill were thankfully uneventful. I showed it to national radio hosts like Diane Rehm and NPR’s Scott Simon, even held it up for the camera on CSPAN Book TV. Everybody loved it. In Chicago, Art’s hometown, I brought it to the Borders Bookstore on State Street and displayed it to readers, at least one of whom was probably an agent (Art’s sister thought she recognized him, and he had a bulge the size of a sidearm beneath the windbreaker he was wearing, in summer). By July, I happily concluded that the Service had better things to do than harass me for a bill made by a man who they had already nabbed.
Then came my July 11th reading at The Book Passage, my hometown bookstore near San Francisco.
The event itself was wonderful. At least 50 people attended, and I even signed a book for an ex-USSS agent who had heard me discussing the book on the radio. He admired Art’s bill and handed it back to me, then presented his old ID and told me that he had been present at the assassination attempt against Ronald Reagan. He said that back in his day, when the Service was less than half its current size, it had a real tight sense of purpose and unit pride, but doubted that it was still the same.
After the reading, I left the bookstore with some old friends. Waiting outside was another agent. He was not retired.
For obvious reasons I won’t describe his appearance, but he was with a very pregnant woman, and I assumed it was either his wife or an extremely dedicated female agent, maybe both. He was quite friendly as he walked me back to my car, but as we neared the vehicle he suddenly became very agent-like.
“I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to confiscate the bill,” he told me.
“Of course you do,” I said with a convivial smile. “After all, you’re the Secret Service.”
“I’m afraid I really do have to take it,” he continued. “I’m not trying to ruin your evening, but you are not allowed to have that.”
I walked on silently for a few more steps, waiting for him to fess up to the joke. Nothing happened.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” I finally said.
“Sorry, but I am not,” he said. Then he whipped out his badge and ID. At that point, I knew that he actually was ruining my evening. He gave me the name of his superior at the San Francisco field office, along with a phone number. If he was a con man, he was as good as Art Williams himself.
“C’mon, man,” I pleaded pathetically. “You saw how I stamped ‘COUNTERFEIT’ on the bill. You know I have no intention of passing it. This is an artifact, a piece of history. It’s the only bill of Art’s I have, and you want to take it from me?”
“That may be true, but it’s contraband,” he said. “It’s my job to take it.”
Technically he was right. And his zealousness was completely in character with the Service’s history.
“What are you going to do if he doesn’t give it to you,” said one of my friends. “Arrest him?”
Ha! I should have forced him to haul me in. My God, think of the publicity: Author Arrested for Possessing Counterfeit Bill, Claims it Was “Just For Show.” Any federal judge worth his salt would have taken one look at the circumstances and probably chastised the agent for wasting his time. At most, I would have been fined. Instead, eager to reminisce with my friends, I ruefully handed over my bill. Trying to ease the blow, the agent said he’d write me a Receipt for Contraband.
“A receipt? So I can present it to the Service at some point and get my bill back?”
“Then what it is good for?”
He just shrugged. Like Art’s bill, the receipt was a worthless piece of paper and ink.
I had to wonder what this act meant to him. Taking artifacts from authors should be beneath the Service. Was he showing off for his wife and unborn child? Was his plan to go back to the field office on Monday morning and wave it as a trophy? Although the bill was impressive, it wasn’t even Art’s best work. Unless the agent was under orders, he could have ignored my memento. The irony is that me showing people Art’s bill did more to educate the public about identifying counterfeit currency than confiscating it ever could have.
“Hey, at least I bought your book,” the agent said consolingly before he left, holding up a copy that I had signed earlier. Then he left with my prize, walking off towards his pregnant friend and back into his anonymous world.