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Flim-Flam Man: The True Story of My Father's Counterfeit Life Paperback – September 5, 2005

4.6 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Armed robber, arsonist, counterfeiter-words that describe a hardened criminal or dear old dad? In Vogel's case, both. The author traces the criminal career of her father, John Vogel, through her own relationship with him. As the favorite of three children, she is able to gain special access to the inner workings of her father's dangerous life as well as glean his intense affection. A kid growing up in the 1970s, Vogel realizes her father has a penchant for the finer things in life, but lacks the access or the wherewithal to achieve his goals. "Dad had never been interested in the slow, dutiful mechanics of becoming successful-only in the serene, wrapped-in-cashmere end result. The way he saw it, you were either a garbage collector or a CEO. He was too impatient." John's impatience manifests itself in different get-rich-quick schemes, pie-in-the-sky inventions and plans that never quite pay off. His drinking and drug use intensify over the years of disappointment, contributing further to his despair. Yet he remains devoted to his daughter, imparting to her his sense of sentimentality. Vogel suffers her own bumps in the road as a teenager, but unlike her father, she's able to pull herself back on track, completing college and becoming a journalist (she later finds work as an investigative reporter in Minneapolis). Her heartbreaking memoir is an attempt to better understand John Vogel, a classical music-loving convicted felon, adoring father and bank robber. She tells a powerful story while investigating their complex relationship, writing with empathy and without excuses.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Investigative journalist Vogel offers an absorbing portrait of a doting father, who schemed and scammed his way onto the nation's most-wanted list. After becoming estranged from his family, John Vogel was arrested for counterfeiting in the fourth largest seizure in U.S. history, but he vanished before he could be sentenced. Vogel recalls fond childhood memories with an undercurrent of instability. Through a turbulent adolescence of rebellion and drug abuse, Vogel intermittently lived with her father, slowly coming to realize how he earned a living. She also recalls visits from U.S. marshals after her father became a fugitive and was featured on television's Unsolved Mysteries. His disappearance and eventual suicide at the end of a police chase following a bank robbery compelled Vogel to examine her relationship with her father more deeply, his "volatile combination of self-pity and vengefulness." She suffered through her own deep cynicism and rootlessness until she could reconcile herself to their mutual love and vulnerabilities. This is a compelling look at the life of a criminal and how he affected his daughter. Vanessa Bush
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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st edition (September 5, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074321708X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743217088
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,121,991 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
What I thought would be a kind of cute, whimsical tale about a lovable rogue and his gifted but troubled daughter turned out to be the most compelling story I've ever read about the complex and often conflicted relationships between parents and children. The author is an extremely talented writer who is not the least bit afraid of exploring those internal areas that are sometimes better off ignored. I laud her for sharing so much of herself and her family, and only hope that writing this book was as cathartic for her as reading it was for me. It is rare that a book has such a profound effect on me, but this one blew me away.
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By A Customer on May 6, 2004
Format: Hardcover
A brilliant book that captures the essence that both good and evil exist in a single person. A criminal and con-artist who is an enemy to victims is a loving father and husband away from that life. It has the same complexity of character that Rikki Lee Travolta used to dissect the actor's life as both nepotistic and self-aggrandizing but counterbalanced with fear and insecurity in his book "My Fractured Life." Jennifer Vogel's dissection of the real man behind the conman is just as moving and equally as poignant. A highly recommended book.
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Format: Hardcover
Gorgeously written, highly compelling. Jennifer Vogel is a deeply complex woman who understood her deeply complex father in a mystical way. This book is riveting. I read it cover to cover in one sitting. One of the best memoirs I've ever read, right up there with ANGELA'S ASHES and CHANGE ME INTO ZEUS' DAUGHTER.
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Format: Paperback
Con men are often interesting and charismatic, it is how they get through life. Their offspring, sometimes, not so much. Couldn't help but wish I had the chance to tell the narrator that she is exposing way too much of herself. The real story is not so much the father's but the daughter's and that story is left uncomfortably unfinished. I wonder if she ever got clean? ever made up to her mother? ever started to care about anyone but her own self? Does she still steal, shoplift, walk out on unpaid restaurant tabs, sell drugs? I wondered what the other family members thought. The story felt, in that way, voyeuristic: I was not so much reading the story of a now deceased con-man but of a very alive woman who doesn't see how badly she appears in her own narrative.
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Format: Hardcover
Jennifer Vogel's dad was not like other dads. Sure he loved Jennifer and her siblings, remembered birthdays, took them fishing and on vacations. But John Vogel was a criminal, a conman and a crook. In FLIM-FLAM MAN Jennifer Vogel shares the story of her complicated relationship with her father --- his life of crime and secrecy, his affection for her and his bloody death at the end of a police chase almost a decade ago.
Estranged from her father for years when he died, Vogel's guilt and sadness fuel this memoir. And so does her love for him and her understanding of his outlaw ways. She tries to get closer to him by examining his childhood (his father was absent and his mother emotionally distant) and his other relationships. Still, this is not a family history in the traditional sense. Vogel gives the reader sketches, impressions of her family more so than details and facts. The result is emotional, fascinating and quite personal.
Vogel's parents divorced when she was a child. Her mother, left to raise three children alone, was the disciplinarian. Her father's mystique grew. The children spent summers with him, driving in his fancy Cadillacs, spending time at his cabin, entertaining guests and having fun. But over the years Vogel pieced together truths about her father. Her mother told her early on that he was delinquent in his child support. To Vogel, his gifts and personality seemed to make up for this somehow. Yet how was she to balance out his other crimes such as arson? And how was she to make sense of the fact that her father had served prison time as a young man for a violent crime? Or what about his justification to rob a corporate retail chain for sociopolitical reasons by creating and passing counterfeit money? Or the armed bank robberies?
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