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The Man in the Rockefeller Suit: The Astonishing Rise and Spectacular Fall of a Serial Imposter Hardcover – June 2, 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 222 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Has all the pace and drive of a suspense novel.” — Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

“No mystery writer would script this—it’s too unbelievable. — The Christian Science Monitor

“Impeccably reported.” — Los Angeles Times

“Fascinating.” — People (four stars)

About the Author

Mark Seal is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, where his piece on Gerhartsreiter was a finalist for a 2010 National Magazine Award. He is also the author of Wildflower. He lives in Aspen, Colorado.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; 1st Printing edition (June 2, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670022748
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670022748
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (222 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #366,559 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robin Simmons VINE VOICE on June 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I think the last non-fiction book that I literally couldn't put down was "THE LOST CITY OF Z." Now comes Mark Seal's true-life account of German born Christian K. Gerhartsreiter's metamorphosis through several identities until he adopted the lock-jaw, Boston Brahmin accented Clark Rockefeller. He dressed the preppie part and charmed people along the way with his wide knowledge and wit. He was clearly an eccentric but people longed to associate with a "Rockefeller" even if he was vague about the family connection.

I was kind of sympathetic to "Clark" because he was a self-made man who actually was able to get several prestigious jobs on Wall Street. He also got married to a high-powered business consultant and had a daughter.

Oh yes, he may have also killed two young people in San Marino and drove their truck to the East Coast where he tried to sell it. The book alludes to a third missing person.

If, after the bitter divorce (his wife finally had him investigated), he had not kidnapped his daughter and made international headlines, he may have been able to continue his serial impersonations.

Today he is being held on murder charges as well.

What amazes me is the incredible ability of "Clark" to make up stories people eagerly "bought." I wonder if he had chosen a fiction writer's life, would he have been as successful conjuring stories as say Stephen King, who obviously has a compulsion to create artificial lives.

This is a terrific book. Seal has put together many missing pieces with over 200 interviews. There are many unanswered questions that remain. Perhaps a revised edition after the murder trial?

Far beyond what a master of fiction might conjure, this incredible story will leave you slack-jawed.

We are indeed a wild and crazy species.
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Format: Hardcover
People can be so stupid.

And I don't mean politicians who don't know enough to use throwaway cell phones when communicating with women who aren't married to them.

I mean the citizens of Milford, Connecticut, who met a 17-year-old German exchange student named Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter in the fall of 1978 and believed him when he said his father was an industrialist who had something to do with Mercedes-Benz.

And I mean the citizens of San Marino, California, who believed that Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter ---- now Christopher Chichester --- was related to Lord Louis Mountbatten, cousin of the King of England.

And I mean the citizens of Greenwich, Connecticut, who believed that Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter --- now Christopher Crowe --- was the same Christopher Crowe who produced the Alfred Hitchcock television series.

And I mean Stan Phelps, who was once smart enough to have given the young Mike Milken his first job, and who now hired Crowe to trade bonds, never checking the Social Security number that Crowe provided, which actually belonged to David Berkowitz, the serial killer known as Son of Sam.

And I especially mean Sandra Boss, a 26-year-old in her final year of Harvard Business School, who met Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter --- now operating as Clark Rockefeller --- in 1993. She believed his parents had died in a car crash. That he started Yale at 14. That he lived, alone, in a townhouse on Sutton Place. That he settled a $50 million lawsuit, leaving him broke, so that she wouldn't be at financial risk if they got married. And that, on the eve of their wedding, he disinvited his distinguished family.
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16 Comments 57 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
This could have been a fascinating book but the errors, discrepancies and questions left hanging ruined it for me. For example, on p. 42, Christian transfers to the Univ of Wisconsin in Jan. 1980. On the very next page, he arrives there in Jan 1981. This may seem like a minor error but there were similar ones, lots of them, through the book and many of them were major ones. I kept waiting for the author to explain the major discrepancies but he never did (for example, the lost year was never explained). There appeared to be no fact checking or editing (even though he thanked his fact checker and editor at the end) and so it lacked credibility and was totally confusing. I realize it's a complicated story, based on a thirty-year fraud, and so some hanging questions are inevitable but the loose ends and errors here were just way over the top. For credibility, the author should have at least acknowledged them and shown that he made some attempt to resolve them.
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Format: Hardcover
I don't see a way to give half-stars so let me start by saying that this is at the high-end of a 3-star review. Other reviewers have deftly recapped what the book's content is about -- a German student who comes to America and takes on several identities and eventually gathering the gumption to take on the Rockefeller moniker. The book ambles a bit at the beginning with so much detail, but it never gets too deep that it becomes boring. The book slowly picks up steam and after the half-way mark really begins to become a page-turner once the Rockefeller identify is assumed. The story is always interesting and spans somewhere between two and three decades, so a lot of ground is covered in this person's life.

This is an interesting story and it was a fun read. What kept me from rating it higher were a few things. First off, there's a lot of second-hand information in the book. The author never had access to the main character, but he does a serviceable job of interviewing everyone who ever seemed to have come in contact with "Rockefeller". Second, a couple of things just seemed unexplained to me. For example, the author mentions a packet of detailed information they are given early in the book. It's glossed over so quickly that the reader is left wondering about the veracity of the information. Why did this all just land in the author's lap? Similarly, there is a part at the end when the author is presented a basement-full of "Rockefeller's" personal belongings with little explanation as to how he found them nor how the new owner came upon them. Either way, though, the book was a fun read and kept my interest throughout.
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