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“Amy Reading is a crackerjack storyteller. . . . [A] lively history of a nation on the make.” —The Dallas Morning News
“[A] remarkable piece of storytelling . . .[filled with] brilliant portraits. . . . It’s great fun to read. No crime in that, is there?” —The Boston Globe
“Perhaps the best book I’ve ever read on con artists and con artistry. . . . It’s thrilling and hilarious by turns and when you’re done, you understand the past and the present better.” —Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing
“An engaging book for anybody who wants to better understand misconduct in the realm of finance—and the consequences of such misconduct for everybody involved.” —USA Today
“Most scholarship reads like a trip to the dentist. The Mark Inside reads like a trip to the track.” —David Mamet, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Glengarry Glen Ross and House of Games
“An astounding tale, brought to vivid life by an historian who has had to become an expert at distinguishing fact from romantic fiction.” —Businessweek
“A skillful exploration of the development of con artistry in America. . . . Reading’s side narratives and contextual notes are illuminating, giving us a more refined sense of what it felt like to live in an America that was developing at a breakneck pace.” —Fortune
“Amy Reading brings to life one actual con in a book as riveting as a movie. . . . [The Mark Inside] is an amazing piece of historical research that will ensnare the reader.” —Newark Star-Ledger
“[Reading] delivers the goods. . . . A whopping good tale.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch
"Thrilling and suspenseful." --Winnipeg Free Press
“Engrossing. . . . [Reading] gets to the center of both Norfleet’s story and the mass appeal of the con artist as a figure in American culture.” —The Paris Review
“An entertaining read, grounded in detailed historical analysis. . . . A fascinating story of crime and punishment.” —New York Journal of Books
“An uproarious history of the con game in America.” —Asbury Park Press
“This account of con artists and obsessive revenge is replete with dramatic twists and turns. . . . [and] vibrant characterizations. . . . This narrative of vigilante justice flows like fiction, as con artistry is illuminated throughout, with resonance in today’s world of high-tech con artistry.” —Publishers Weekly
“This work, which puts deception in a sociological context from the settlement of the colonies on, is riveting, exciting, and eye-opening. . . . Thoroughly researched and engagingly presented.” —Booklist (starred review)
“[The Mark Inside] takes us inside the world of grifting and one of the slickest scams in history outside of Wall Street.” —Gizmodo
“With pitch-perfect storytelling and stylish prose, Amy Reading weaves a gripping tale of a grand swindle and even grander act of revenge, a solo manhunt throughout North America that’s as hilarious as it is compelling. Rarely has history been this fun, fast-paced, and fulfilling. The Mark Inside is a book you won’t put down and a story you’ll never forget.” —Karen Abbott, New York Times bestselling author of American Rose and Sin in the Second City
“Part page-turning crime drama, part juicy tale of vengeance and obsession, part informative social history, and part intriguing epistemological rumination about literary truth, Amy Reading’s The Mark Inside is always great fun. From the first page Ms. Reading hooks the reader as shrewdly as any of the bunco men she writes about—only she makes good on this enticement, delivering narrative gold.” —Howard Blum, bestselling author of The Floor of Heaven and American Lightning
“An astonishing story of one victim’s determined quest to bring down a ring of swindling confidence men. We have rigged fights, fake stock exchanges, gun battles, jailbreaks, a hardy Texan, an honest dentist and a righteous DA. Here’s early twentieth-century capitalism—a great humbug run by the ghost of a grinning P.T. Barnum.” —Ann Fabian, author of Card Sharps and Bucket Shops
“It’s tempting to say that The Mark Inside reads like a historical novel, but really it’s more like a great heist film. Amy Reading entertains while explaining why all Americans—from Ben Franklin to Bernie Madoff—are part trickster and part sucker.” —Scott A. Sandage, author of Born Losers
It's somewhat discomfiting to think of the history of United States as one long con game, exploited by the likes of Benjamin Franklin (who helped print the money in the early republic) and early gold, silver, and stock speculators (who arguably created nothing but worthless paper, which they then sold to saucer-eyed suckers). And yet in The Mark Inside: A Perfect Swindle, a Cunning Revenge, and a Small History of the Big Con, Amy Reading makes a compelling argument that the country would never have achieved its Manifest Destiny if people weren't willing to con (and perhaps as important, be conned) in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Everyone, to varying degrees, carried "the mark inside." And perhaps none so indelibly as J. Frank Norfleet, a Texas rancher who got swindled out of his life savings but whose vigilante campaign to track down his personal con men (and along the way, many others) made him a household name in the 1920s.
Before the establishment of a national currency during the Civil War, counterfeit bills flooded the marketplace. Everyone knew it, and yet, suggests Reading, most people accepted it — because they had confidence that others accepted it, too:
America between the Revolution and the Civil War experienced dramatic economic development as the frontier moved westward and the eastern cities commercialized. This development happened not despite but because of counterfeit. At a time when the appetite for development outstripped the available credit, the fake bills that inflated the money supply performed a public service, especially in the West.People were game to be hoodwinked, and this prevailing attitude helps explain the tremendous success of P. T. Barnum.
[The] mark would have to be, first and foremost, an out-of-towner so that he wouldn't be able to turn to his local banker for advice during the swindle or encounter the con men after his money vanished. He would be from a second- or third-tier American city, traveling alone in a large city for business purposes?. He would be a prosperous, substantial citizen in his community. More than that, he would be a self-made man, accustomed to both hard work and seizing the main chance. He must be able to raise $20,000, $30,000, $40,000, even $50,000 in a day or two, but he must not have so much money that he would refer a deal to his bankers and accountants. He wouldn't be overly familiar with the financial industry. Norfleet fit that role in almost every particular.Furey and his four associates devised a plan that made Norfleet believe he'd made easy money using privileged stock information. They replayed the con several times, upping the amount and assuring him that even higher winnings awaited him. When he finally went in deeply — putting down $45,000, or $560,000 in today's money — they "took off the touch," in con man lingo, and split town with his money. "The game was up, and he was worse than broke."
Reviewer: Cameron Martin
Posted April 23, 2012
If you have a fascination with the confidence game, then this is a must read. Based in-part on the autobiography of J. Frank Norfleet, a Texas rancher in 1919 and the con he revenged, the author takes us through an historical examination of swindles, schemes and cons from early America including paper money counterfeiiting, wallet drops, stock swindles, horse racing and the delayed telegraph. The subject was the basis for Amy Reading's doctoral thesis (she appeared in an NPR radio interviw)and it shows in the depth of detail and the engaging writing style of the book. If you liked the movie, "The Sting", then you will thorougly enjoy this excellent read!
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Posted June 16, 2012
The setup for this story is terrific, so I expected a great book. Before I was 1/3 through, I gave up on the book entirely, having lost all interest.
Sorry, author, but better editing would have helped this book tremendously.
Posted April 4, 2012
No text was provided for this review.
Posted April 23, 2012
No text was provided for this review.