Scoundrel: The True Story of the Murderer Who Charmed His Way to Fame and Freedom

Scoundrel: The True Story of the Murderer Who Charmed His Way to Fame and Freedom

by Sarah Weinman
Scoundrel: The True Story of the Murderer Who Charmed His Way to Fame and Freedom

Scoundrel: The True Story of the Murderer Who Charmed His Way to Fame and Freedom

by Sarah Weinman


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Notes From Your Bookseller

From crime fiction to true crime, Sarah Weinman has established herself as the 21st century’s expert in both genres. Scoundrel is centered around a wrongful conviction in reverse that engages in the world of politics and criminal justice. It’s real-world stakes tied together with well-plotted tension.

A Recommended Read from: The Los Angeles Times * Town and Country * The Seattle Times * Publishers Weekly * Lit Hub * Crime Reads * Alma

From the author of The Real Lolita and editor of Unspeakable Acts, the astonishing story of a murderer who conned the people around him—including conservative thinker William F. Buckley—into helping set him free

In the 1960s, Edgar Smith, in prison and sentenced to death for the murder of teenager Victoria Zielinski, struck up a correspondence with William F. Buckley, the founder of National Review. Buckley, who refused to believe that a man who supported the neoconservative movement could have committed such a heinous crime, began to advocate not only for Smith’s life to be spared but also for his sentence to be overturned.

So begins a bizarre and tragic tale of mid-century America. Sarah Weinman’s Scoundrel leads us through the twists of fate and fortune that brought Smith to freedom, book deals, fame, and eventually to attempting murder again. In Smith, Weinman has uncovered a psychopath who slipped his way into public acclaim and acceptance before crashing down to earth once again.

From the people Smith deceived—Buckley, the book editor who published his work, friends from back home, and the women who loved him—to Americans who were willing to buy into his lies, Weinman explores who in our world is accorded innocence, and how the public becomes complicit in the stories we tell one another.

Scoundrel shows, with clear eyes and sympathy for all those who entered Smith’s orbit, how and why he was able to manipulate, obfuscate, and make a mockery of both well-meaning people and the American criminal justice system. It tells a forgotten part of American history at the nexus of justice, prison reform, and civil rights, and exposes how one man’s ill-conceived plan to set another man free came at the great expense of Edgar Smith’s victims.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062899774
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: 02/07/2023
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 90,697
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Sarah Weinman is the author of Scoundrel and The Real Lolita and the editor, most recently, of Unspeakable Acts: True Tales of Crime, Murder, Deceit & Obsession. She was a 2020 National Magazine Award finalist for reporting and a Calderwood Journalism Fellow at MacDowell, and her work has appeared in New York magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, and the Washington Post. Weinman writes the crime column for the New York Times Book Review and lives in New York City and Northampton, MA.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Part I The Sand Pit (1957)

1 "Where Is Vickie?" 15

2 The Mercury 27

3 "If You're Looking for a Fall Guy …" 37

4 Openings 56

5 "I Just Threw It Out the Window" 69

6 "Eddie and Don Aren't Friends Anymore" 79

7 "It Can't Be" 92

Part II The Death House (1958-1962)

8 Patricia 99

9 Divorces 117

Part III The Conservative (1962-1966)

10 A "Lifetime" Subscription 129

11 "My God, I Wish I Could Be Absolutely Certain" 146

12 Meeting in Trenton 156

13 Waiting for Death 168

Part IV Making the Brief (1967-1968)

14 Lunch at Paone's 187

15 "They Must Think I Am Houdini" 195

16 Blood, Nerves, Vibrations 208

17 Hatkic 216

18 March to Publication 227

19 The Breach 249

20 Brief Against Death 263

Part V Reasonable Doubts (1969-1971)

21 Rogue's Wake 277

22 A Reasonable Doubt 296

23 Bid for a New Trial 308

24 Conviction Overturned 321

Part VI Getting Out (1971-1976)

25 Non Vult 337

26 Freedom's First Dawn 347

27 The Celebrity Convict 357

28 Counterpoint 367

29 Paige 374

Part VII Boiling Over (1976-1979)

30 Rage, Revived 393

31 On the Run 400

32 Arrested Again 410

33 "The Saga of a Bad Man" 417

34 "Used and Betrayed" 428

Part VIII Staying In (1980-2017)

35 A Strange Triangle 439

36 Vacaville 447

Coda: 1948 463

Acknowledgments 473

Notes 479

Bibliography 577

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