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Book Review – Jack Higgins, Erin Arvedlund, Blue Ocean

Book Review – Jack Higgins, Erin Arvedlund, Blue Ocean

Book Review – East of Desolation by Jack Higgins

Jack Higgins book titled East of Desolation is a thriller with a complex plot that will keep you wanting to read more. The book is fairly short at only 244 pages with chapters of about ten to fifteen pages in length on average. The story is based on the lives of several aviators and mischievous insurance people who meet by chance and end up tangled in a murderous plot.

Joe Martin is the main character in East of Desolation. He is a level-headed, tough pilot who gives charter flights to people visiting Greenland for business or pleasure. His daily duties include flying people to local fishing spots and flying supplies to various businesses in his vicinity.

One of Joe’s best friends is named Arnie Fassberg, and he and Joe are the only two people on the island who have planes outfitted with skis and floats, allowing them to take passengers to desolate areas of the country.

While at a bar one night, Joe and Arnie meet a world-renowned movie star named Jack Desforge. Jack is a John Wayne type of man. He is rough, rugged, good-looking, and attracts females wherever he goes. The three men also happen to meet a group of men and a widow named Sarah Kelso who are in town on business.

The leader of the group is a man named Vogel who claims to work in the insurance industry. He approaches Joe one night asking for him to fly the group to a local plane wreckage that is only accessible through the air.

From the start, Joe can sense something very strange about Vogel and his associates. Vogel tells Joe that the wreckage is very important for his business because he has to pay insurance claims to the widows of the men who died at the wreckage.

However, Vogel’s story is not consistent, and one of the deceased men’s widows, Sarah Kelso, is not showing any type of sadness. Joe agrees to fly the mission regardless due to the large sum of money Vogel will pay and to do a favor for the supposedly grieving widow.

Joe soon flies over the wreckage and notices that it will be extremely hard to land on the icy surface surrounding the plane. Even if a landing occurred, it would take approximately three hours to ski to the wreckage. Martin still flies the group and skis with them to the wreckage only to find out that the story keeps getting more suspicious.

Sarah Kelso’s widow is buried in a shallow ice grave wearing his wedding ring but with a false identity on him. Also, there is a fresh pair of snow tracks in the vicinity with oil stains on the snow. Obviously someone had been to the wreckage in the past day and Joe Martin was missing something important.

Vogel and Martin and company return to Martin’s hometown and all meet at a local establishment for drinks. Some drunken sailors enter the bar led by a man named DaGama, a dirty man with the strength of a giant. They quickly start a fight with Desforge and Arnie, only to be broken up by the local law enforcement just before someone gets killed. Everyone involved gets bruised and bloodied, but DaGama leaves extremely angry after having a chair broken over his head.

Soon, the real motivation for Vogel’s trip to Greenland becomes clear; there is a large fortune of emeralds located at the plane wreckage. Not only is there a large fortune, but Vogel, DaGama, and other hired hands are working together to obtain the jewels and destroy anyone who gets in their path.

The jewels come into the wrong hands and end up going to Desforge, Arnie, and a woman named Gudrid who is trying to land a role in one of Jack Desforge’s upcoming movies. Vogel does not like having his emeralds with a stranger, so he has DaGama and his drunken sailor friends follow Joe, Jack, and Gurdrid and punish them in any way possible.

Several times in the story, Joe and his friends find themselves on the wrong end of violence and greed. For example, Joe is walking near the pier late one night and is struck on the back of the head by a lone assailant. He wakes up several hours later in the storage compartment of a smelly, rotten fishing boat. Joe soon realizes he is in DaGama’s ship and is facing certain death.

However, fight his way overboard and swim to shore in the icy Greenland water. Joe is not the only person injured and tortured in the book, however. Arnie is also shot and killed late one night and everyone expects DaGama has struck again.

Later in the book, we find out that is was actually Jack Desforge who killed Arnie with his own gun. Jack was not receiving any movie roles and decided that the easiest way for him to gain money and continue his easy way of life was to steal the jewels himself. However, Arnie resisted and Jack killed him with a shotgun fired at close range.

Joe does not know at this point that Jack is now a third party fighting for possession of the jewels. The two of them continue to run from Vogel and his hired hands and to simply stay alive. Eventually, Joe arrives at a home where there are guns firing repeatedly to find DaGama holding a young woman named Ilana hostage.

Joe is now a hostage as well since he is unarmed and was shot in the wrist area before entering the home. DaGama demands Joe go outside and tell Jack to stop firing at DeGama and the house or Ilana will be killed. Joe obeys DaGama’s commands, realizing he has no other options, and convinces Jack to come into the open.

While the men are standing out in the open and trying to negotiate the best possible scenario where everyone can live, everyone stays out of jail, and Vogel can have his jewels, Jack comes up with a plan. Since the guilty men in the party were Vogel, DaGama and Jack Desforge, the three of them would split the jewels evenly and leave the country together.

Desforge and Vogel would split the jewels fifty-fifty while Joe and Ilana can live peacefully and out of harms way. Jack seems to have a strange look on his face however and when they take off on Joe’s plane to leave the country, Ilana and Joe realize just what Jack has done.

Jack knew he would be killed in the near future no matter what he did. Vogel and DeGama would never be fine with splitting the fortune and they would simply put a bullet in Jack to get rid of him. Therefore, he flew himself, Vogel, and DeGama into the air for only a minute before voluntarily crashing the plane into a mountain.

This way, all three guilty parties would be taken care of and Joe and Ilana could truly live without concern. Before leaving, Jack gave Ilana his belt containing several pouches. No one realized it at the time, but this was supposed to be the bag of jewels.

She opened the pouches to find pebbles; the jewels were missing. However, Joe returns to an area nearby where he was running from DaGama and Vogel earlier in the day to find his stash of jewels in a small pile. Joe smartly replaced the emeralds with pebbles earlier in the evening to make sure they were out of the wrong hands.

Jack Higgins’ book East of Desolation is a thrilling, murderous story with a happy ending. Although Joe Martin is shot in the arm, beaten, loses his friend to DeGama, and does not have much luck in business, he ends up with a fortune of emeralds.

The author does not say what happens to Joe and his jewels, but the reader can assume that Joe and Ilana live happily ever after with their newfound fortune. Overall, this story is captivating and will keep you reading for hours. I rate this book a 4 out of 5.

Book Review: Madoff By Erin Arvedlund

Madoff By Erin Arvedlund

This book tells the story of Bernard Lawrence Madoff who was tried in New York in March 2009 and handed down a ‘symbolic’ sentence of 150 years in prison for perpetuating the biggest financial crime in history. The book’s sub-title, ‘The Man Who Stole $65 billion,’ hints at the magnitude of the crime but the author makes clear the exact amount will never be known.

In spite of the book having been rushed to press in the same year as the trial, it shows evidence of thorough research, and it is no fault of the author that she was able to pose more questions than she could answer.

The most amazing aspect of this book is that although nobody knows when or why Madoff started his illegal manipulations, he certainly operated his so called ‘ponzi scheme,’ a fraudulent hedge fund linked to a seemingly legitimate trading operation, for two or three decades before he was put on trial.

And although the collapse of his empire was undoubtedly imminent after the financial recession of 2007/8, it was Madoff who gave himself up and confessed to his crime.

Madoff was 72 years old when he went on trial, an age greater than ‘man’s allotted span’ according to the Jewish scriptures. He had enjoyed the proceeds of crime, including several yachts, private jets and mansions in several countries and US states, for what many would consider a lifetime.

To be imprisoned at that age is a form of punishment, but many would feel that it was inadequate in terms of years likely to be served. The author suggests that whistle blowers were ignored and government agencies were delinquent in not stopping Madoff’s activities much earlier. There is little doubt that some suspicions were allayed by the high profits that many individuals were gaining from the scheme.

Madoff refused to cooperate with the state prosecutors and maintained that he alone was responsible for the criminal activity. The author suggests that Madoff’s wife, Ruth, and at least one close business partner must have been involved in what the trial judge condemned as an ‘extraordinary evil’ that ruined the lives of hundreds of people.

So people who benefitted for decades from this great crime have escaped punishment, and Madoff’s sole few years behind bars is hardly likely to deter others from attempting similar financial frauds.

Madoff belonged to the large and closely knit Jewish community in the USA, and large numbers of Jews in New York and Florida featured prominently as investors in Madoff’s scheme. One might have expected much greater insight into the character and personality of Bernie Madoff, as he was known in financial circles.

He is the central figure in the book yet he is given no substance as a real person. He comes across as an automaton, almost as one might perceive a rogue computer that runs amok in Wall Street, out of control because nobody knows how it works. And how do you punish a computer?

Book Review – Blue Ocean Strategy Creating Uncontested Market Place

Blue Ocean StrategyThis book will challenge you to create, yes, “create,” as if you are digging it out not merely discovering a new ocean on the globe. And, yes, this is an implementation book, not just a theory book.

The authors give clear steps how to create uncontested market space. After reading this book, it is like a science, this “blue ocean strategy,” not merely speculation for only the highly evolved business mind. It’s a strategy book that can be applied, albeit with innovative thinking and willingness.

The idea behind a “blue ocean” can first be understood by understanding what is meant by the “red ocean” of today’s shark-filled marketplace. The current market could be described that way, for all the red blood spilled, as one company competes with another, produces a similar product to another’s, and differentiates based on price, quality, and service, all courting the same customers.

This is the “red ocean” of competition, winners and losers in the market. It’s like Toyota vs Honda multiplied and divided hundreds of times over. This, the Red Ocean.

What Is the “Blue Ocean”?

A “blue ocean” is created by developing a product or service that satisfies a new customer with such innovation and at such a price that you have no real competition. You are not just differentiating, you are offering something unparalleled. The authors suggest practical ways to do this.

At the cornerstone of a blue ocean strategy is what the authors call, “value innovation.” It’s where your focus is not on beating out your competition but by providing such a unique leap in value for your customers that the competition becomes irrelevant and you gain dominance in this “blue ocean” market you have created.

Several examples of companies that did this are discussed in the book. Cirque du Soleil, a circus in Canada that because of its innovative changes to its format, attracted a whole new audience, gaining heaps in revenue growth while Barnum and all other circuses continue to tough it out in the Red Ocean.

Or NetJets, which created a hugely profitable blue ocean in the leasing of corporate jets, by pricing down and providing more service. Unbeatable. Unmatchable. In the past seven years, 57 other jet leasing companies have tried and all have failed.

Or Curves, a fitness franchise for women, you probably have seen one in your town, that exploded in growth by tapping into a market for women with the right cost basis, and space and time allotment that satisfied an unserved population of women. They created a blue ocean in the health and fitness arena.

This book not only describes what a blue ocean is but, significantly, this book provides concrete strategies for thinking about how to create one in your industry. Each chapter explains practical, useful steps that require you to deliberately and carefully implement to create for yourself a blue ocean.

Look Beyond the Ocean Horizon

It shows how to look beyond the traditional market boundaries to engage “non-customers.” It explains how to see beyond the existing demand and touch untapped needs in the market. It walks you through the organizational hurdles to involve properly all levels of a company in successfully strategizing a blue ocean.

This book, indeed, is one you that will urge you to think. It pushes you to imagine. It emphasizes value innovation. Seriously, this is a book for leaders.

Book Review: “Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant” by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne

by Eugene Harnett

Book Review – To Be Or Not to Be Intimidated by Robert Ringer

To Be Or Not to Be Intimidated by Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer wrote Winning Through Intimidation in 1973 and renamed and re-released it in 2002. The name change was a good move because winning through intimidation was never Robert’s intention. How to survive in the jungle and overcome the intimidating tactics of its inhabitants is the real purpose and is much better expressed by the new title.

Robert Ringer assumes the alter-ego of a tortoise and pits his wits against the metaphorical hare. Keep on plodding along, never take your eye off the goal and something will happen to hold the hare up and very often the tortoise will come plodding past in the final straight.

Robert tells of his early days in the real estate business and of the different types of intimidating rogues he came up against. He lost a few battles early on but but was able to classify the intimidators and use the lessons learned to overcome similar tactics on subsequent occasions. He refers to this education period as his time at Screw U.

Basically Robert came to assume that every property seller was happy to use his services, take his time and expense but when the time came to pay up always seemed to have a good reason to hold on to some or all of Robert’s money (which he refers to as chips).

Some set out from the beginning with every intention to steal his chips and some found good reasons at the close of the deal and did so with great regret but nevertheless it is safe to assume that no-one was happy to pay a real estate agent the commission due. That commission could be a pretty large sum and what on earth could make a real estate broker think he was worth that kind of money?

Robert very quickly learned to get the legal issues in good order. After a couple of mistakes he always got a signed commission agreement before doing any work. If for any reason there was no agreement he would walk away.

He learned the hard way to always have the right broker licenses in place in whatever state he was operating. The intimidating sellers knew the law and would always try the legal loopholes first.

When alerting prospective buyers to properties he quickly learned to send all documentation registered mail so it could never be said that he did not introduce the buyer to the seller. Would people really behave that way? All the time.

And in a master stroke of legal maneuvering Robert decided to always have his own legal representative at the closing of every deal, a move that always took the buyer and seller by surprise and one that relied on the code of honour between attorneys to make sure he got paid. “It was one thing to make a sale” said Robert frequently in the book “but another thing entirely to get paid for that sale.”

We have covered basics so far but quite rightly because so many people don’t do the basics properly. However, there were three big revelations that really made the difference to me, and for which I will be eternally grateful and for which I would gladly have paid many time more than the cover price of the book. $14.95 incidentally.

Revelation 1: Not every deal can be brought to a satisfactory conclusion. In many cases it is obvious from the start that a deal will not be possible. Robert decided to sort these out early on and leave them alone. He concentrated his efforts on the deal that had a high probability of being made instead of chasing every possible opportunity and clinging to the desperate hope that one of them might come off.

Most of us do that, I was doing it, but now if I see a deal is not going to result in a win, win situation I walk away, no regrets, no looking back and turning into a pillar of salt, it just saves so much time, money and heartache.

Revelation 2: It is not necessary to claw owns way up through the ranks learning slowly and waiting for others to die so you can take their place. No one has the right to hold you back if you have the ability to pass them. Other real estate brokers were less than kind to Robert and most were eager to fill his mind with their discouraging words. Had he listened he would have given up and taken a job at a fast food restaurant and there would have been one less competitor for them to worry about.

Instead Robert Ringer set out to learn the skills, develop the ability, show no respect for the industry leaders and put in place what he calls ‘The Leapfrog Theory’. In a nutshell it goes like this “It is my own decision to move right to the top of this industry in the shortest time possible and in order to do that I need to educate myself and to make certain changes, first to the way I think about myself, and second to the perception other people have of me. And that leads us to revelation 3.

Revelation 3: ‘Change your posture’. If you feel second rate you will act second rate and get paid second rate money if you are lucky enough to get paid at all. In the mind of a property owner looking to sell, the real estate agent was a necessary evil and Robert Ringer was just one more real estate agent.

That was the perception that had to change. He set out not just to appear more than just another real estate agent but to elevate his posture so much that the buyer or seller would not have the audacity to even suggest that he was a real estate agent.

His first step was to create a unique calling card. A full colour brochure with a black, high gloss finish, hard cover that cost nearly $5 each to produce. I will spoil the book if I tell you more about the brochure, or about the string of private secretaries that eventually came along or the private jet for visiting clients and inspecting properties in other states.

Suffice to say that the tortoise passed the hare and left it in his dust. In his first full year after adopting these principles Robert Ringer closed deals resulting in $849,901 in fees, and that was a long time ago. A couple of years earlier he was scrabbling around hoping to pick up the odd $1,250 and too often getting his fingers burned even for that.

There is a lot in this book that any salesperson can use. Like all businessmen I need sales leads to keep my business thriving. Since reading this book I have discovered how to sort and wait for the best deals and to concentrate on those and not to go chasing after every fleeting promise.

Not that I am idle, active sorting makes for a busy life, but I have discovered how to do that in the most efficient way. Because I am not doing the chasing I have developed the posture that draws the right people to me. Thanks to Robert Ringer.

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