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December 1, 1998

Veteran Trader's Intriguing Portrait of the Trenches: A Million a Minute: Inside the World of Sec

By Gregory Bresiger

And Davis deserves credit for bringing this all out in her interview with Yassukovich. Her analysis and commentary in this area are quite sound. That's because, in the end, her verdict is: "I am of the mind that blaming currency traders and speculators is like treating the symptoms rather than what causes the illness."

Again, excellent analysis and sound thinking often come from Davis. She should have given the reader a lot more of this and we would have had a first-rate tome. But instead, Davis, and I suppose her editors, believed that the book must be balanced; that it must have a little of this and a little of that, as well as a double portion of mush.

The drivel part of the book gives the reader uplifting portraits of traders who made a big splash. These quickly deteriorate into hymns to traders. In this part of the book, I felt as though I had been herded into some cockamamie football rally and was being urged to let out a college yell for these trading supermen and superwomen. These profiles began to tire me after the second or the third. As described by Davis, most of these men and women should be nominated for sainthood.

These traders would shame anybody who has less than two advanced degrees, doesn't work out constantly and turn away in disgust when the Twinkies are unwrapped; or whose bodies have any of the same fatty deposits that have collected around my midsection thanks to a sedentary life devoted to prayer, meditation and Miller beer.

Davis, in her lives of the saints section, even takes a swipe at resurrecting the ghost of Michael Milken, who is becoming even more of a nuisance these days than the ghost of Hamlet's father or the Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Again we hear about Milken's inner-city work, his lifetime of selfless service and the dubious nature of his conviction, which Davis informs us was unprecedented. (So, if he was guiltless, why did he, with all the legal resources money could buy, plead guilty?)

In the end, "A Million a Minute" is a decent book in which the reader should do more than a fair amount of skipping around. Davis is a very bright woman with a thorough grounding in trading. She obviously understands the economics, controversies and the pitfalls of the business. With a good editor, she'd be dangerous.

Gregory Bresiger is a New York-based financial journalist and an occasional contributor to Traders Magazine.