In the Pantheon of Cons

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A throne surely awaits the grand imposter Christian Karl Gerhartstreiter, the subject of Mark Seal’s delicious new book. The Man in the Rockefeller Suit: The Astonishing Rise and Spectacular Fall of a Serial Imposter (Viking).

Astonishing it truly is… how Gerhartstreiter came to the US at age seventeen from a small town in Germany and  began conning his way into the hearts of the privileged upper class. Despite an empty wallet he managed to convince “old money” that he was, in fact, one of them.

There was a brilliant method to his madness as he adopted multiple identities and cultivated a patrician accent— (mimicking the Jim Backus character on the TV show Gilligan’s Island)— on a path to becoming “Clark Rockefeller”—whose eccentricities and outlandish tales seduced everyone he met.

This compulsively entertaining true tale of a brilliant con artist  (and presumably a murderer) makes an ideal beach read for the dog days of August.

Author Seal does an admirable job navigating through the forest of lies, yet the reader is left with  many questions which will probably never be answered. That is, unless Gerhartstreiter decides to write an autobiography.

If so, you can be sure it’ll wind up #1 on the Fiction Bestseller List.