Book Review: The Complete TurtleTrader


The Complete Turtle TraderLast week I received from Michael Covel a copy of his latest book [easyazon-link asin="0061241709"]The Complete TurtleTrader: The Legend, the Lessons, the Results. Michael and I first crossed paths a couple years ago when I was the Content Editor for Trade2Win website. It was shortly after he had released his first book, Trend Following, and he was gracious enough to do an interview for the site.

The first impression one gets from the book is quite favorable. It is an attractive format, and a pretty easy read, though well written and detailed. The primary text is about 200 pages, which I got through in a single afternoon (though I do read faster than most). And the price tag is extremely reasonable for a hardcover trading book, much lower than what you often see.

The Complete TurtleTrader definitely continues along the path of the trend trading subject of Covel’s earlier book, but does so through the story of the famous Turtles. Readers of Jack Schwager’s book, Market Wizards, and it’s follow-up, The New Market Wizards,will be familiar with the Turtles. They are the result of a nature vs. nurture running debate between famous futures trader Richard Dennis (a Market Wizard) and his partner William Eckhardt (profiled in The New Market Wizards). [The audio of the Dennis chapter from Market Wizards is also available separately.]

The Turtle program was an effort to determine whether traders can be created, developed through training as opposed to having some innate talent for it. This topic has been the subject of debates in trading circles for probably as long as there has been traders. To a certain degree, the classic movie Trading Places, which was released very near the time of the first Turtle program, has at it’s core the same theme.

In The Complete TurtleTrader, as the subtitle suggests, Covel tells the story of the Turtles from the selection process which brought together two very diverse groups of people in 1983 and 1984 all the way through to where they are today. It includes a discussion of their training program, their performance, and of course the ideas underlying the system they employed, one based on trend following. The explanation of the latter is pretty direct – definitely enough to give the reader a really good idea of the way the Turtles were taught to trade, which they did very successfully. Figures to that end are provided throughout the text and in supporting appendices. The author also includes comments on how individual traders can apply the Turtle techniques and philosophy themselves.

For someone like myself who first heard about the Turtles through Schwager’s writings, this book was a really interesting back-filling of the story. When Schwager was putting his books together, the Turtles and their instructors were very tight-lipped about the details of the experience. In this book, Covel has been able to flesh things out not just in a kind of history text sort of exposition, but one which includes a great many comments and anecdotes from the participants. It is a tale which really explores the whole perspective of life as a Turtle.

The story Covel lays out offers a great many insights. Obviously, the first one is that learning how to trade, and to make big returns, is possible. Probably the most interesting part of the narrative, though, (in terms of the  story, anyway) is what happened to the Turtles after they left the program. It will come as no surprise that the diversity of their backgrounds and personalities has been reflected in the diversity of what they have done over the intervening years. I was particularly enthralled by the discussion of the adjustments they had to make to be successful as big-time money managers, something their mentor Dennis was never quite able to do.

Overall I consider The Complete TurtleTrader a very enjoyable and worthwhile read. It has a lot of elements, and of course trading strategy. I actually found reinforcement of many of my own trading ideas as I was reading, seeing them in a different light. That’s not something which happens much after twenty years of trading and reading books and articles on the subject. Of course not everyone is going to find the fullness of the theory or application behind Turtle trading suitable to them, but it is always worth making an effort to learn from those who have achieved success before us, and that’s an opportunity this book provides.


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About the Author
John Forman, author of this blog, has traded for more than 20 years, is a professional market analyst, and authored The Essentials of Trading. He is an active participant in trading forums, consults for trading related businesses, as published literally dozens of trading articles, and has been quoted in a number of books and in the media.
** See John’s full bio.


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