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The Mark Inside: A Perfect Swindle, a Cunning Revenge, and a Small History of the Big Con Hardcover – Deckle Edge


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (March 6, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307272486
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307272485
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #456,916 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Not only does she artfully relate Norfleet's revenge, but [Reading] also places it in the context of scammers dead and living. This is not a history of Ponzi schemes, and it does not reach the heights (or should I say depths) of Bernie Madoff's operation. It is, however, 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.”
     —Steve Weinberg, USA Today

“In these pages are brilliant portraits of Florida before retirement groves, of wild-west Denver before the tech boom, and of Texas before the Bush family decamped there from Greenwich, Connecticut. The country was younger then, though not more innocent. . . . A ripping good read.”
    —David M. Shribman, The Boston Globe

“In the era of Bernie Madoff, Nigerian spam scams, and other sordid rackets, it’s heartening to remember that swindling once took a touch more finesse. . . . The Mark Inside is an astounding tale, brought to vivid life by an historian who has had to become an expert at distinguishing fact from romantic fiction.”
     —Jim Kelly, Businessweek
 
“Reading doesn’t swindle her readers. . . . She delivers the goods, with enough scholarly information on America's con men to keep intellectually minded readers from feeling guilty about reading such a whopping good tale.”
     —Doug Childers, Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Amy Reading brings to life one actual con in a book as riveting as a movie. . . . An amazing piece of historical research that will ensnare the reader.”
     —Arthur T. Vanderbilt, Newark Star-Ledger

“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.”
    —Ian Crouch, The Paris Review Daily

“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

“Fascinating . . . Norfleet’s quest seems both quixotic and inspiring.”
     —Kirkus Reviews

“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
 
“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 best-selling 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, best-selling 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

About the Author

Amy Reading holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University. She lives in upstate New York with her husband and two children.

More About the Author

Amy Reading holds a Ph.D. in American studies from Yale University. She lives in upstate New York with her husband and two children, and can be found at www.amyreading.com.

Customer Reviews

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See all 19 customer reviews
This book is one of the funnest books I have read in a long time.
Rollin D Crittendon
For me personally the book had the tendency to get really interesting for a few pages then would go into boring filler stuff.
michelle kimmel
So interesting, in fact, that I'd be willing to follow the author into other adventures.
M. Swartwout

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By M. Swartwout on March 19, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
Amy Reading's book adroitly weaves a history of "confidence men" in America around the astounding story of J. Frank Norfleet, a man swindled out of his life savings by an expert team of con men -- who then brings them to justice. The twists, turns and coincidences are so great that you'd swear Reading is making it up, save for the meticulous research & citations.

Reading is an excellent writer; she has a knack for knowing what the reader is thinking (or doubting), and for breaking the narrative at just the right time to discuss what can and cannot believed about Norfleet's story. She is also quite skillful at dropping Norfleet's adventure into the context of con men of the 19th and early 20th century. From her discussions of the relationship between "honest" speculation [think bonds] and gambling, it's clear that the author has studied the issues in great detail.

I'll put it this way: while I'm an avid reader of American history, I had no particular interest in the role of "confidence", "speculation", municipal bonds or con men in the development of our country. But Amy Reading made those topics very interesting to me. So interesting, in fact, that I'd be willing to follow the author into other adventures.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Marks' Reviews on March 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For those of us who saw the iconic movie "The Sting" when it first came out, that movie provided the romance and intrigue of "The Big Con." However there really were no other amplifying books or movies on that fascinating topic, until now.

Amy has done a great job using Frank Norfleet's oddysey pursuing the con men who fleeced him as a backdrop of the con games which existed in American cities during the early twentieth century. A huge research effort provides info where none ever existed, since by their intrinsic nature, no formal or written record ever existed of the thousands of cons which occured.

Prior to Amy's book, there was a simple model of the con game. The con man took advantage of the "mark's gullibility and greed. Period, end of story. Amy shows how major social forces contributed to, and were incorporated into, the con man's schemes. Fake stock market brokerages and transactions were a staple of "The Big Con." This exploited the fact that the stock market was one of the very few avenues that offered the possibility of financial gain to the common man, however remote that possibility was. Newspapers provided exciting stories of the exploits of famous stock market plungers like Jesse Livermore and Arthur Cutten. The con game played to the mark's belief, acquired through newspaper stories, that the stock market was controlled by "insider's", by giving the mark a chance to become an insider and make a bid score.

All in all a great and highly engaging period piece read.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on May 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover
If you remember the movie _The Sting_ from 1973 you will recall that there was a series of various confidence tricks, including a pigeon drop, a rigged card game, and an elaborately staged fake betting parlor set up just to con a despicable gambler. As entertaining as Robert Redford and Paul Newman made the movie, I remember thinking that the fake betting was just too complicated and preposterous for anyone to have confidence in. It could only happen in the movies. I have found myself proved wrong as I was reading _The Mark Inside: A Perfect Swindle, A Cunning Revenge, and a Small History of the Big Con_ (Knopf) by Amy Reading. Reading holds a doctorate in American Studies, and the book started as an academic venture, and comes with plenty of footnotes, but forget all that. This, Reading's first book, is a terrific story of duplicity and revenge, and an examination of confidence schemes as a manifestation of a particularly American drive.

The hero of the story is J. Frank Norfleet, and when we meet him in 1919, he was merely an upstanding, teetotalling, diminutive, third-generation Texas rancher, in his prosperous 54th year. He came to Dallas for the purpose of buying and selling land. This is the proverbial honest man who could not be cheated, and yet his honesty and goodwill were played against him by three clever gentlemen who were prosperous and friendly. They were just his sort of people, even though they were strangers. He entered the St. George Hotel, and as Reading says, "... he entered a tightly scripted drama with nine acts, each with its own distinct function in conveying the mark toward the climax when his money will be whisked away." Reading describes each of the nine acts, which have names like "roping the mark" or "the convincer.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John Anthony Deksnis on September 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I loved this book. Of course, I guess I should admit to being a... sucker... for obscure bits of Americana and tales of great con jobs.
According to her author bio, Ms. Reading has a Ph.D in American Studies and it shows. But, in a good way. This work was thoroughly researched -- and I mean thoroughly. And, as a result, fascinating historical tidbits abound.
Nothing dry and academic about Ms. Reading's writing, either. The book just flies along.
I'm very anxious to see, too, what she does next. In the meantime, though, kudos to her for this effort.
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