What are the best non-fiction books about con men?
June 7, 2017 12:06 PM   Subscribe

I just read MY ADVENTURES WITH YOUR MONEY. I loved it. What are some other great reads about Swindlers, Tricksters and Confidence Men?
posted by rileyray3000 to Writing & Language (26 answers total) 84 users marked this as a favorite
Have you read The Big Con by David W. Maurer? It's an absolute classic, published in 1940. Hiiiighly recommended!
posted by theatro at 12:12 PM on June 7, 2017 [7 favorites]

The Big Con is seminal.
posted by Diablevert at 12:12 PM on June 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

Catch Me If You Can
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:47 PM on June 7, 2017 [5 favorites]

Provenance: How A Con Man and A Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art, by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo. Super engaging read about art fraud.
posted by rhiannonstone at 12:49 PM on June 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Gary Stephen Ross's Stung: The Incredible Obsession of Brian Molony is the story of a long-term embezzler and gambler that was made into the film Owning Mahowny with Philip Seymour Hoffman. I am considering Molony a con artist because of the years he spent fooling his employers, not only with shady business practices but with an unassuming appearance and demeanor.
posted by BibiRose at 12:50 PM on June 7, 2017

Agreed that The Man in the Rockefeller Suit is amazing. Also good: Ponzi's Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 1:00 PM on June 7, 2017

Erik Larson, Devil in the White City
posted by Dashy at 1:03 PM on June 7, 2017

Scam!, about the Irish Travellers and their scams.

Nthing anything about "Clark Rockefeller," aka Christian Gerhartsreiter.
posted by Melismata at 1:14 PM on June 7, 2017

Very cool non-fiction science book by a psychologist about how and why we fall for cons and swindlers.

The Confidence Game by Maria Konnikova.
posted by forkisbetter at 1:48 PM on June 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

Avoid Walter Kirn's book about Rockefeller; it made my skin crawl.

The Smartest Guys in the Room certainly qualifies.
posted by praemunire at 2:02 PM on June 7, 2017

Empire of Deception is a great land swindle story, set in the early 1900's. Leo Koretz was absolutely flagrant, and it still took years for anybody to catch on.

The Art of Making Money is a gripping story about a guy who learns to counterfeit the "new" hundred dollar bill and how he got caught. Good info on counterfeiting and an interesting character portrait.
posted by cosmicbandito at 2:23 PM on June 7, 2017

Also on Clark Rockefeller, Blood Will Out.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:27 PM on June 7, 2017

Two I've read this year that fit the bill are Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History by Scott Andrew Selby and Ballad of the Whiskey Robber: A True Story of Bank Heists, Ice Hockey, Transylvanian Pelt Smuggling, Moonlighting Detectives, and Broken Hearts by Julian Rubenstein.
posted by okayokayigive at 2:58 PM on June 7, 2017

The full text of "Yellow Kid" Weil's autobiography is on archive.org.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:10 PM on June 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Informant the book. Haven't seen the movie adaptation.
posted by sol at 3:25 PM on June 7, 2017

A.J. Liebling's The Telephone Booth Indian and The Honest Rainmaker are both delightful.
posted by generalist at 3:26 PM on June 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

You Can't Win, by Jack Black? It's an autobiography of his life as a thief and hobo.
posted by stillmoving at 4:08 PM on June 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

Funny how people are writing about Gerhartsreiter because my partner recently read parts of Titan, about John D Rockefeller (richest man in the world by today's dollar), his father was a multi-talented swindler but gravitated to selling miracle herbal cures as his alter-ego "Dr Livingston". Really interesting to me that the richest man was raised by a con man.

And, I just heard on a podcast (Pod save america?) people talking about The Confidence Man by Herman Melville. Important work - because Melville - but also so you can better understand the similar tactics of Trump.
posted by cda at 5:13 PM on June 7, 2017

"Does Herman Melville's 1857 novel The Confidence-Man have anything to tell us about our present day? Philip Roth thinks so."
posted by cda at 6:37 PM on June 7, 2017

The poet and the murderer by Simon Worrall Completely weird book which is partly about forgery but also partly about the scam that went around with it (a dude basically says he has dug up some of the founding Mormon documents and then has to sort of scam people explaining how he wound up having them etc etc). Very weird and interesting.

Also Bringing Down the House : The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions by Ben Mezrich. About students who found and worked a system. Not quite a scam (though a swindle?) but a great story nonetheless.
posted by jessamyn at 6:41 PM on June 7, 2017

If you're at all interested in medical fraud and snake-oil type confidence schemes, be sure to check out Pope Brock's Charlatan: America's Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam . Amazing story about goat testicles, medical fraud, the birth of pirate radio, and the American Medical Association.
posted by cosmicbandito at 8:12 PM on June 7, 2017

Two Russian classics: The Twelve Chairs, by Ilf and Petrov, and Dead Souls, by Nikolai Gogol. The first is funnier, the second is more of a classic (and a bit harder to read).
posted by ubiquity at 12:30 PM on June 8, 2017

The Art of the Con by R. Paul Wilson
posted by billm at 7:27 AM on June 11, 2017

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