Art Williams Jr. was a kid from the wrong side of the Chicago tracks with the typically tragic back-story: an absentee father; an unstable mother; a youth marked by poverty, gang violence, teen parenthood and petty crime. But at an early age, Williams figured out he had a very marketable skill: He was good at making money. Literally. As in, figuring out how to manufacture fake bills by the thousands, even in the face of ever-more-elaborate anti-counterfeiting techniques.
In his fascinating nonfiction tale The Art of Making Money, author Jason Kersten takes readers on a journey through the life of one of the most gifted counterfeiters in American history. From a vagabond childhood, through his early counterfeiting apprenticeship at the knee of a meticulous mentor, and into Williams’ early adulthood, the narrative culls the first-hand recollections of multiple participants—including Williams himself—into a portrait of a kid who found his only source of pride in the creation of the perfect fake. As a character study, it’s reminiscent of the life of another celebrated fraud, Catch Me If You Can’s Frank Abagnale—only with a somewhat different ending.
But it’s also undeniably riveting as a kind of procedural through Williams’ process—including the puzzle of breaking the secrets of the 1996 $100 bill, and the cross-country sprees of mall shopping by which Williams and his girlfriend turned their funny money into real cash. Join the author for a discussion and signing of his stranger-than-fiction book.