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The Big Con: Great Hoaxes, Frauds, Grifts, and Swindles in American History

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Editorial Reviews


"Serious students and general readers alike will marvel at fraudsters' ingenuity and cringe at human gullibility (sometimes fed by greed). Consider for all public libraries."

Library Journal

"[A] good overview and resource for public and academic libraries aimed at all levels of beginning students. Summing Up: Recommended. High school, community college, and undergraduate students; general readers."


"The Big Con is a big book, almost 400 pages, and as such, it is very authoritative, making it a great reference book to have for those who enjoy reading true crime, crime fiction, or who are born skeptics and get a certain 'kick' out reading how easily people can be fooled. . . . Very readable The Big Con is one of those books that you can pick up and start reading anywhere. There is an extensive bibliography at the back for further reading suggestions. Mr Hendley has done sceptics a genuine courtesy by assembling the history of frauds, cons, scams and hoaxes into one beautiful volume. . . . [T]his book is perfect reading for the casual reader, true crime/fiction aficionado, and sceptic."

The Miramichi Reader

"For a comprehensive guide to how the likes of Clem, Lehwess, and other slick-talkers operate, check out The Big Con: Great Hoaxes, Frauds, Grifts, and Swindles in American History. . . . [E]ntertaining and informative."

Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine

About the Author

Nate Hendley is a freelance writer and author. He has written several books, primarily in the true-crime genre.

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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ ABC-CLIO (September 6, 2016)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 380 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1610695852
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1610695855
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 2.3 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 7 x 0.88 x 10 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    5.0 out of 5 stars 3 ratings

About the author

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Nate Hendley is a Toronto-based freelance journalist and author. He has written several non-fiction books, primarily in the true-crime genre. His books have examined wrongful murder convictions ("The Boy on the Bicycle"), scams and hoaxes ("The Big Con"), and organized crime ("The Mafia: A Guide to an American Subculture"), among other topics.

Nate's most recent book, "The Beatle Bandit" is about Matthew Kerry Smith, an intelligent but troubled veteran of the Royal Canadian Navy who robbed Toronto-area banks in the early 1960s to finance a one-man revolution.

On July 24, 1964, Smith disguised himself in a Halloween mask and a “Beatles” wig and held up a branch of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) in Bathurst Manor Plaza in North York, Ontario. A bank patron seized a revolver (at the time, banks in Canada routinely stocked pistols which staff were expected to use in case of robbery) and got in a gunfight with Smith. The patron was killed, and the event fueled a nationwide debate about guns, insanity pleas, and the death penalty.

Published by Dundurn Press, "The Beatle Bandit" is available in paperback, e-book, and audiobook formats. It has received excellent reviews:

“Hendley does a fine job putting [Matthew Kerry] Smith’s crimes in the context of Canadian culture decades ago. Students of true crime won’t want to miss this thoughtful book.” ―Publisher’s Weekly

“Hendley tells the story as though he were writing a crime novel; an apt read-alike might be Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, with which The Beatle Bandit shares a journalistic style and a perceptive analysis of people and events. First-rate true crime.” ―Booklist

Nate's website ( offers more details about his books and background.

Nate also hosts a blog at featuring posts about crime-related topics.

You can email Nate at

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Top review from the United States

Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on October 3, 2016

Top reviews from other countries

faithful reader from Canada
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read in thses days of fake news.
Reviewed in Canada 🇨🇦 on December 17, 2016
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