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Steve Wisdom

Review: Leg the Spread: A Woman's Adventures Inside the Trillion-Dollar Boys Club of Commodities Trading, by Cari Lynn (Broadway Books, 2004)

 [Volume IV of my continuing W & B review series]


A disappointing book. The author clerked at the CME for two years, and "Leg the Spread" is a quasi-memoir, although it's mostly a grab-bag of anecdotes and life stories of Merc traders and clerks she got to know. The book is too pedestrian to be "literature" but insufficiently trashy/raunchy to be a guilty pleasure

A third of the characters are male, and they're uninteresting, both in real life and in the book. Frat boy hijinks, "$20,000 if you can eat 50 McNuggets", fast money, fast cars and fast women, fistfights in the pits, drug/alcohol burnouts, financial blowups, yada yada yada. The women characters are portrayed more sympathetically by the author, but even their stories are mostly cartoonish and uninvolving. A shapely clerk tells her boss, "Give me a trading badge, or I'll call your wife and tell her about us.." Another clerk is pushed to her death from a rooftop because she "knew too much" about prearranged trades on the floor

Lamentably, there's plenty of wide-eyed "so much money changing hands so fast!!" sprinkled through the book, and the author has the irritating habit of capitalizing words such as Market, Floor, Open and Close, as if the were proper nouns

The best 10-20 pages of the book are about Bev Gelman, purportedly the largest local in backmonth Euros, earning >$10m/year, and thereby the most successful woman floortrader in history. In her description of Ms Gelman's trading, though she doesn't understand the details of the spreads & strips being traded, the author comes close to grasping what trading is really about, i.e., having the brains and guts and conviction to come into a market where "everyone" in the pit is 1-bid/3-offer, and deciding to be either 2-bid or 2-offer, for better or worse

Unaccountably "Leg the Spread" is >300 pages. But even if the gist of it were boiled down to 50- 100 pages I can't recommend it

Steve Wisdom, a Pennsylvania-born Harvard graduate, has been Victor Niederhoffer's chief man off and on for more than 15 years. He also has been associated with Trout Trading, Societe Generale and Deephaven Fund

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