It may seem like a strange subject, but this book is about the history of famous hoaxes and scams in this country, from P.T. Barnum, the original master of hoax and humbug, all the way up through James Frey, the fabricated Hitler Diaries, Clifford Irving’s "autobiography" of Howard Hughes, Stephen Glass, and finally "fake news".
I found this book fascinating, relevant to my daily life, and to my experience in business and advertising, because it shows the underlying tolerance we as Americans have for hucksters and charlatans, even, and in fact especially, when we see them for what they are. I’m sure many of us have noticed that the person who is generally in the habit of making outrageous statements, ridiculous claims, and questionable assertions is given way more leeway than the rest of us who are reasonably concerned with truthfulness and accuracy.
One has only to look at our present political process to see this demonstrated every day. For years, I had a business partner who profited from this phenomenon, and we only came to grief when he decided he wanted to be taken seriously, which turned an advantage into a major liability.
This is one of the quirkiest and most unusual non-fiction books I have read this year, and the value add is that it helps to make the crazy looking-glass world we are living in a little easier to understand.
(N.B. It’s a bit long at 500+ pages, but it gets better and better as you go along, so stay with it)