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Bad Paper: Chasing Debt from Wall Street to the Underworld Hardcover – 14 October 2014

4.5 out of 5 stars 101 ratings

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Review

Praise for "Braving Home

""The old homily 'there is no place like home' has never been more poignantly and wittily revealed than by Jake Halpern in these lovely vignettes." --Studs Terkel

"Strangely fascinating and endearing . . . In short, it's terrific." --Bill Bryson

"Not for a long time have I read a book so good and so wise." --Robert Stone

"A dramatic rise-and-fall tale . . . Halpern brings unexpected literary heft to the world of debt collection."
--"Kirkus
""By fostering a greater understanding of the workings of debt collection, ["Bad Paper"] sheds enough light into the shadows to compel readers to push for change."
--"Publishers Weekly"

""Bad Paper" is nonfiction that reads like the finest thriller: suspenseful and frightening, eye-opening, and even, at times, funny. Jake Halpern's fascinating, fearless tour of the underworld of debt collections introduces us to a cast of characters--the (mostly) men behind the scary phone calls--who deserve to be the stars of the next great HBO drama."
--Joseph Finder, bestselling author of "Suspicion" and "Paranoia
"""Bad Paper" is a riveting tale, fast-paced and filled with unforgettable characters. It is also a deeply reported and powerful exploration of America's shadow economy."
--David Grann, author of "The Lost City of Z" and staff writer for "The New Yorker
""Jake Halpern knows how to follow the money. Only a consummate reporter could have achieved such an intimateview of the two debt collectors he chronicles here. And because he really knows how to tell a story, we can't take our eyes off this nasty business."
--Anne Fadiman, National Book Critics Circle Award-winning author of "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down"

""Bad Paper" is a terrific achievement--for the wonderful Ponzi-scheme absurdity of the story, for the outsized characters and the skeptical sympathy they elicit. It's a book that hangs out in that gray and widening zone where the civilization we take for granted starts to break down, and it reads like Michael Lewis with a sense of the abyss. It's about downward mobility and the subtle apocalypse and it feels important--important in the way few books ever are."
--Gideon Lewis-Kraus, author of "A Sense of Direction"

"Jake Halpern's gripping tale provides an unprecedented view into the criminal underbelly of consumer finance. It's required reading not only for everybody with creditors on the line, but for anybody who cares about money or debt."
--Felix Salmon, senior editor, "Fusion"

Praise for "Braving Home
""The old homily 'there is no place like home' has never been more poignantly and wittily revealed than by Jake Halpern in these lovely vignettes." --Studs Terkel
"Strangely fascinating and endearing . . . In short, it's terrific." --Bill Bryson
"Not for a long time have I read a book so good and so wise." --Robert Stone

""Bad Paper" gives readers an intimate knowledge of the debt-collecting industry, but more important, it gives a comprehensive profile of the people in our country who live and die by the industry. This, ultimately, is the book's power and attraction."
--Frank Tempone, "Chicago Tribune"
"[A] wonderful inquiry into the seamy, multilayered world of consumer debt collection . . . both an entertaining sociology of the debt-collecting fraternity and a picaresque romp through the industry's most unsavory byways."
--Julia M. Klein, "The Boston Globe"
"An enjoyable and educational read, with stories that sound too good to be true and word-for-word conversations that a Hollywood screenwriter couldn't make up."
--Jonathan Epstein, "Buffalo News"
"A dramatic rise-and-fall tale . . . Halpern brings unexpected literary heft to the world of debt collection."
--"Kirkus
""By fostering a greater understanding of the workings of debt collection, ["Bad Paper"] sheds enough light into the shadows to compel readers to push for change."
--"Publishers Weekly"

""Bad Paper" is nonfiction that reads like the finest thriller: suspenseful and frightening, eye-opening, and even, at times, funny. Jake Halpern's fascinating, fearless tour of the underworld of debt collections introduces us to a cast of characters--the (mostly) men behind the scary phone calls--who deserve to be the stars of the next great HBO drama."
--Joseph Finder, bestselling author of "Suspicion" and "Paranoia
"""Bad Paper" is a riveting tale, fast-paced and filled with unforgettable characters. It is also a deeply reported and powerful exploration of America's shadow economy."
--David Grann, author of "The Lost City of Z" and staff writer for "The New Yorker
""Jake Halpern knows how to follow the money. Only a consummate reporter could have achieved such an intimateview of the two debt collectors he chronicles here. And because he really knows how to tell a story, we can't take our eyes off this nasty business."
--Anne Fadiman, National Book Critics Circle Award-winning author of "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down"

""Bad Paper" is a terrific achievement--for the wonderful Ponzi-scheme absurdity of the story, for the outsized characters and the skeptical sympathy they elicit. It's a book that hangs out in that gray and widening zone where the civilization we take for granted starts to break down, and it reads like Michael Lewis with a sense of the abyss. It's about downward mobility and the subtle apocalypse and it feels important--important in the way few books ever are."
--Gideon Lewis-Kraus, author of "A Sense of Direction"

"Jake Halpern's gripping tale provides an unprecedented view into the criminal underbelly of consumer finance. It's required reading not only for everybody with creditors on the line, but for anybody who cares about money or debt."
--Felix Salmon, senior editor, "Fusion"

Praise for "Braving Home
""The old homily 'there is no place like home' has never been more poignantly and wittily revealed than by Jake Halpern in these lovely vignettes." --Studs Terkel
"Strangely fascinating and endearing . . . In short, it's terrific." --Bill Bryson
"Not for a long time have I read a book so good and so wise." --Robert Stone

"Bad Paper" gives readers an intimate knowledge of the debt-collecting industry, but more important, it gives a comprehensive profile of the people in our country who live and die by the industry. This, ultimately, is the book's power and attraction. "Frank Tempone, Chicago Tribune"

[A] wonderful inquiry into the seamy, multilayered world of consumer debt collection . . . both an entertaining sociology of the debt-collecting fraternity and a picaresque romp through the industry's most unsavory byways. "Julia M. Klein, The Boston Globe"

An enjoyable and educational read, with stories that sound too good to be true and word-for-word conversations that a Hollywood screenwriter couldn't make up. "Jonathan Epstein, Buffalo News"

A dramatic rise-and-fall tale . . . Halpern brings unexpected literary heft to the world of debt collection. "Kirkus"

By fostering a greater understanding of the workings of debt collection, ["Bad Paper"] sheds enough light into the shadows to compel readers to push for change. "Publishers Weekly"

"Bad Paper" is nonfiction that reads like the finest thriller: suspenseful and frightening, eye-opening, and even, at times, funny. Jake Halpern's fascinating, fearless tour of the underworld of debt collections introduces us to a cast of characters--the (mostly) men behind the scary phone calls--who deserve to be the stars of the next great HBO drama. "Joseph Finder, bestselling author of Suspicion and Paranoia"

"Bad Paper" is a riveting tale, fast-paced and filled with unforgettable characters. It is also a deeply reported and powerful exploration of America's shadow economy. "David Grann, author of The Lost City of Z and staff writer for The New Yorker"

Jake Halpern knows how to follow the money. Only a consummate reporter could have achieved such an intimateview of the two debt collectors he chronicles here. And because he really knows how to tell a story, we can't take our eyes off this nasty business. "Anne Fadiman, National Book Critics Circle Award winning author of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down"

"Bad Paper" is a terrific achievement--for the wonderful Ponzi-scheme absurdity of the story, for the outsized characters and the skeptical sympathy they elicit. It's a book that hangs out in that gray and widening zone where the civilization we take for granted starts to break down, and it reads like Michael Lewis with a sense of the abyss. It's about downward mobility and the subtle apocalypse and it feels important--important in the way few books ever are. "Gideon Lewis-Kraus, author of A Sense of Direction"

Jake Halpern's gripping tale provides an unprecedented view into the criminal underbelly of consumer finance. It's required reading not only for everybody with creditors on the line, but for anybody who cares about money or debt. "Felix Salmon, senior editor, Fusion"

The old homily there is no place like home' has never been more poignantly and wittily revealed than by Jake Halpern in these lovely vignettes. "Studs Terkel with praise for Braving Home"

Strangely fascinating and endearing . . . In short, it's terrific. "Bill Bryson with praise for Braving Home"

Not for a long time have I read a book so good and so wise. "Robert Stone with praise for Braving Home""

-Bad Paper gives readers an intimate knowledge of the debt-collecting industry, but more important, it gives a comprehensive profile of the people in our country who live and die by the industry. This, ultimately, is the book's power and attraction.- --Frank Tempone, Chicago Tribune

-[A] wonderful inquiry into the seamy, multilayered world of consumer debt collection . . . both an entertaining sociology of the debt-collecting fraternity and a picaresque romp through the industry's most unsavory byways.- --Julia M. Klein, The Boston Globe

-An enjoyable and educational read, with stories that sound too good to be true and word-for-word conversations that a Hollywood screenwriter couldn't make up.- --Jonathan Epstein, Buffalo News

-A dramatic rise-and-fall tale . . . Halpern brings unexpected literary heft to the world of debt collection.- --Kirkus

-By fostering a greater understanding of the workings of debt collection, [Bad Paper] sheds enough light into the shadows to compel readers to push for change.- --Publishers Weekly

-Bad Paper is nonfiction that reads like the finest thriller: suspenseful and frightening, eye-opening, and even, at times, funny. Jake Halpern's fascinating, fearless tour of the underworld of debt collections introduces us to a cast of characters--the (mostly) men behind the scary phone calls--who deserve to be the stars of the next great HBO drama.- --Joseph Finder, bestselling author of Suspicion and Paranoia

-Bad Paper is a riveting tale, fast-paced and filled with unforgettable characters. It is also a deeply reported and powerful exploration of America's shadow economy.- --David Grann, author of The Lost City of Z and staff writer for The New Yorker

-Jake Halpern knows how to follow the money. Only a consummate reporter could have achieved such an intimateview of the two debt collectors he chronicles here. And because he really knows how to tell a story, we can't take our eyes off this nasty business.- --Anne Fadiman, National Book Critics Circle Award-winning author of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

-Bad Paper is a terrific achievement--for the wonderful Ponzi-scheme absurdity of the story, for the outsized characters and the skeptical sympathy they elicit. It's a book that hangs out in that gray and widening zone where the civilization we take for granted starts to break down, and it reads like Michael Lewis with a sense of the abyss. It's about downward mobility and the subtle apocalypse and it feels important--important in the way few books ever are.- --Gideon Lewis-Kraus, author of A Sense of Direction

-Jake Halpern's gripping tale provides an unprecedented view into the criminal underbelly of consumer finance. It's required reading not only for everybody with creditors on the line, but for anybody who cares about money or debt.- --Felix Salmon, senior editor, Fusion

-The old homily 'there is no place like home' has never been more poignantly and wittily revealed than by Jake Halpern in these lovely vignettes.- --Studs Terkel with praise for Braving Home

-Strangely fascinating and endearing . . . In short, it's terrific.- --Bill Bryson with praise for Braving Home

-Not for a long time have I read a book so good and so wise.- --Robert Stone with praise for Braving Home

About the Author

Jake Halpern is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine, the author of Fame Junkies and Braving Home, and the coauthor of three young adult novels. He is a fellow of Morse College at Yale University. His hour-long radio story -Switched at Birth- is one of This American Life's eight most popular shows ever.

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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Farrar, Straus and Giroux (14 October 2014)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 240 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0374108234
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0374108236
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 14.43 x 2.24 x 21.59 cm
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.5 out of 5 stars 101 ratings

About the author

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When I was twenty years old, I took some time off from college and moved to Prague. It was the sort of inspired, half-baked decision that you can only make when you are twenty and clueless. A few weeks into my stay in Prague, I found an apartment and settled into a routine of doing very little ' wandering around the city, reading, and living off the money I'd saved. Almost immediately I sensed that it was a special time to be living there. This was back in 1995, and the city was teaming with artists, expatriates and lingering tourists, living in two-dollar-a-night hostels. Everyone there was writing a novel, or a play, or at least some essays. The apartment that I took over ' a drafty subterranean vault beneath a neighborhood pub ' had been the home of a long string of expatriated Americans before me, and the closets were filled with an array of dusty, discarded and abandoned manuscripts, most of them uncompleted.

Eventually, I got swept up in the bohemian spirit of it all and set to work on piece of writing of my own, a screenplay to be precise. The screenplay, which was called the Papaya Trap, was about a con artist who falls in love with a beautiful one-armed girl.

The truly transformative event of my time in Prague, however, was my decision to investigate my family's roots in this part of the world. I knew that some of my ancestors had once lived in Prague, and on a whim I telephoned my great-uncle (Joe Garray) in America, and asked him if we had any relatives who were still here. "No they all perished in the holocaust," he said. But I kept pushing him and eventually he told me that the man who saved him from the Germans still lived in a farm house in Slovakia at the edge of the Tatra Mountains. A week later I took a commuter plane to Bratislava and then a train to the small town where this man lived.

I showed up at his door after sundown and he came to the gate cautiously, leaning heavily on a wooden cane, face trembling and bald except for a few long loops of white hairs, his feet engulfed in a swarm of mutts who guarded his every step. After trying to explain who I was for almost five minutes, he led me through the back door and into his kitchen. It was bare room, illuminated in dingy fluorescent light, occupied only by a few stools, a couch covered in dog hairs, and a hissing radiator. Here he told me about hiding my uncle and their numerous close calls with the Slovak Gestapo. When the situation at the farmhouse became too heated, they fled to the mountains in the cold of winter and lived like hermits for six months. More than anything else this story convinced me that I wanted to dedicate my life to becoming a professional storyteller.

After college, I landed an internship at The New Republic. My chief responsibility at the magazine was researching and fact-checking. I spent hours, days, and weeks looking for correct spellings and exact dates. Being a quick fact-checker was always a point of pride among the office grunts like myself, and though it was an obscure and largely useless skill, I found it quite helpful in tracking down information on dangerous and outlandish towns. On my lunch breaks and in between assignments I searched for clues, and gradually I found them ' reports of holdouts living on lava fields, windswept sandbars, and desolate arctic glaciers. I spent Sunday afternoons combing the web with a smattering of search terms like 'squatter,' 'won't leave home,' and 'people call him crazy.' I became friendly with the press office at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and I pumped them for ideas. It turned into something of a hobby.

Eventually, the short magazine pieces that I wrote on people and their homes attracted the interest of a literary agent who convinced me to write a book, which I then did. This book ' Braving Home (Houghton Mifflin, 2003) ' allowed me to quit my job and become a fulltime, self-employed writer.

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P K
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting facts, well written
Reviewed in Germany on 2 December 2018
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Athan
4.0 out of 5 stars A fast-paced tour of a distasteful landscape
Reviewed in the United States on 3 November 2017
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R. Lee Barrett
4.0 out of 5 stars Just when thought I knew it all...
Reviewed in the United States on 5 November 2014
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al
5.0 out of 5 stars are the source and Bill Collectors are the hired guns going after good people. Bad Debt & Loans that have been ...
Reviewed in the United States on 29 December 2014
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Jham
5.0 out of 5 stars Debt Collectors are dirt bags!
Reviewed in the United States on 11 November 2015
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