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Son of a Grifter: The Twisted Tale of Sante and Kenny Kimes, the Most Notorious Con Artists in America Mass Market Paperback – April 2, 2002


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Product Details

  • Series: True Crime (Avon Books)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Avon; Reprint edition (April 2, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061031690
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061031694
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 4.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (99 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,168,751 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Convicted last year of murdering millionaire heiress Irene Silverman in New York City and waiting to stand trial for a second murder in California, Sante and Kenny Kimes, mother and son, have become two of the best-known American criminals of recent years. In the wake of widespread, high-profile media coverage, this book purports to fill in missing details of Sante's murky biography. Walker, who is Sante Kimes's eldest son and half-brother to Kenny, catalogues the wrongdoings of the woman he still affectionately calls "Mom," including everything from shoplifting and theft to multiple counts of arson, insurance fraud and slavery. Walker vividly recounts his childhood with Sante and her third husband, Ken Kimes, detailing how the couple indoctrinated him into criminality. The author, who appears to be exorcising personal demons, does a fine job of elucidating the psychological and emotional price of being loved and cared for by a sociopath. It is this tension, between the loving mother and the criminal willing to neglect and at times even betray her child, that pushes the story forward. Unfortunately, the litany of crimes is so vast and comes so fast that the narrative never quite lingers long enough to develop real drama or suspense. Well researched and touching, though, it testifies to how one son can evolve into a killer and the other live to tell the tale. As a chronicle of Sante Kimes's life, it's unlikely to be surpassed by any other. The only person likely to tell a more intimate tale is Sante herself. Photos not seen by PW. (April 23)Forecast: This is the first major look at the criminal Kimes family, and with the media attention surrounding the forthcoming trial as well as appearances by Walker on Larry King and NBC's Dateline it should attract many readers throughout the summer.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The authors tell a compellingly sordid and ultimately very sad story that began, at least for the newspaper-reading and TV news-watching public, when a middle-aged woman named Sante Kimes and her twentysomething son, Kenny, were arrested for murdering a wealthy woman in New York City as part of an involved plot to abscond with her money and possessions. But there is much more to the story than that, and Walker, Sante's older son and Kenny's half-brother, tells it all in astounding detail. Sante Kimes was a finagler, con artist, manipulator, and thief from practically the first day she drew breath; soon enough, murderer would be added to her list of labels. Perhaps the most amazing aspect of her career in crime was the way she was able to enlist her two sons in her brazen illegal activities. Author Kent wised up to his mother, although it took him a long time to summon the strength to pull away from this Lady Svengali. But unfortunate Kenny, now incarcerated, as is Sante, seems yet to understand that he was psychologically poisoned by his mother. A movie attempting to tell Sante Kimes' story would be criticized for being overblown and implausible. And yet, this story is neither; instead, it is one of the most engrossing true-crime accounts to be published in recent memory. Expect this compelling book to get all the attention it deserves. Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

His story is gripping and absolutely true.
A friend 2000 miles away
Kent Walker, Sante's first born son and the writer of this book tells us that his mother loved him and his brother Kenny very much.
BbP
Congratulations to Mr. Walker for his honesty and his willingness to share with readers.
Lisa Raye Finnegan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Perry Smith on June 21, 2001
Format: Hardcover
OK - first of all, the content is fascinating. A highly detailed account of growing up in a family of sociopaths, and the aftermath thereof.
What makes this book special, though, is how it doesn't just recite the criminal history of the Kimes family, but uses it to rise above the true crime genre. Instead of just reciting the sleaze and scams that Sante Kimes and her family pull off (which, let's face it, no matter how much of a highbrow you might be, are worth reading about in and of themselves), Son of a Grifter elevates this material by describing how the Kimes' criminal activities map into (and out of) that defining aspect of our society, the search for the American Dream.
This book is not your usual tabloid quickie designed to cash in on a hot crime story. Thing more along the lines of Norman Mailer's "The Executioner's Song" or Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood." It's scrupulously researched, incredibly well written, and really captures the voice of its central characters.
I hardly ever buy audio books, but I heard Kent Walker on NPR, and his speaking voice is perfect for this story. I'll be driving cross-country this summer, and think I'll get the audio version for the feeling of that coast-to-coast opportunistic drifting that Sante Kimes is emblematic of.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By "doerksen" on June 22, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book is packaged and marketed like a standard brick of true crime with a photo section in the middle, but it is actually a unique and enthralling personal memoir, and a valuable contribution to late 20th century social history to boot. The prose is superb, and the clarity of Kent Walker's psychological insights, into both his family history and own mind are beyond impressive. Anyone generally interested in the phenomenon of charisma (REAL charisma, the Weberian kind, not manufactured "charisma" as seen on tv) will profit from this book, which plumbs its mysteries with particular intelligence. One would not think, either from the descriptions or photographs, that anyone would be able to find Sante Kimes as anything other than repulsive. And yet, she had this incredible, awful capacity to influence and control those around her, through sheer force of personality.
This is a horrifying story, but also, in the strangest of ways, an inspiring one, in that Kent Walker somehow managed to transcend an upbringing among sociopaths to become some semblance of a human being.
I read this book in two sittings, and it would have been one, except that I had to sleep.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Konrad Baumeister VINE VOICE on August 5, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Sante Kimes was written up by many as some type of mastermind of crime, some evil genius. That wasn't really the case at all. What she was was unbelieveably ballsy, insanely narcissistic and self-centered, financially hugely neurotic and desperate and greedy, and of course very quick on her feet. Her crimes are simply too many to list - the book is positively stuffed with fraud, theft, arson, slavery, violence, swindling, in constant repition, and not excluding several murders - and coming from an eyewitness to literally decades of malfeasance they make for a fascinating roller coaster ride. It is a wonder the author didn't turn out every bit as warped as his half-brother. He did not escape unharmed.

None of the characters comes off well. Of course Sandy "Sante" Kimes is a true original, and the focus of the book. But Ken Kimes, her second husband and targetted millionaire, is not some simple dupe or victim; he aided and abetted Sante for decades, allowing his integrity (what little he may have had when he met Sante), his business, his health, and previous family relationships, and finally his wealth all to go into freefall as his 'wife' systematically plundered, wasted or misappropriated whatever she wanted. During the time of her first imprisonment for slavery, when he had a clear chance to make a break and save what was left, he declined to do so, and instead embarked on a multi-year drunk and slid into degenerate gambling to kill time until her release. When Ken finally dies, the author speculates on whether even this was entirely natural, and it seems the dying Ken had a lot on his mind just before checking out.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Marty Roscoe on May 14, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I first heard about this book while jogging on a treadmill at the gym while the "Today Show" was being shown. The author, Kent Walker lived on a treadmill for most of his life. While the book is written in the first person, Mr. Walker somehow manages to make it appear that he is on the outside looking in. Considering his life with his mother I'd say that he has been through the looking glass and back. While we have all known people who are flambouyant and perhaps a bit eccentric, Sante Kimes surpasses them all. I would not classify her as sociopathic, but she is definitely one of the most twisted narcissists I have ever read about. If this was a work of fiction, one might blame the author for having an over-active imagination. I can only liken living in this woman's world to spending a lifetime with a psychotic Lucy Ricardo. Chaos, of her own making, rules her life and the lives of those around her. Her second husband, Ken Kimes, comes across as her true soul mate. The author, her poor eldest son, would have you believe that Ken was a dupe for whom we should feel pity, when, in fact, he is as conniving and unfeeling as his wife. A short review cannot express the sheer evil this woman exudes, one must read the book! Even then, it is hard to believe the audacity of this woman. I personally felt embarrassment for her and her family during some of the surreal situations in which she placed herself and those around her. She, on the other hand, has no sense of shame at all. Whether filling her handbag with stolen lipstick or committing murder to gain access to another's riches, she acts at all times like she is engaged in an entertaining board game. Her greed knows no limits. Her cruelty is unbounded.Read more ›
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