Talk Back

The history of swindling is far from complete. In fact, our culture is surprisingly loathe to talk about confidence artistry, unless a figure like Bernie Madoff comes along. I know there is more to say. I welcome your ideas, stories, recommendations, questions, and links, and if you give me permission, I’ll post them here. Contact me.

 

  The Mark Inside Mysteries

J. Frank Norfleet was an unreliable narrator of his own story. At the very least, he exaggerated his own experiences, and at the worst, he conned his readers in his story of being conned. The basic facts of his pursuit and arrest of Joseph Furey’s gang of swindlers are true and verifiable, but it is the small details that bear examining.

There are at least four mysteries in Norfleet’s account that might yet be cleared up. Let’s call it “pulling a Norfleet,” defined as going deeper into the story to outsmart the storyteller. Do you have any leads on Mrs. W.G. Ward, Mr. Shaw of Orin Junction, that crucial yet elusive newspaper account of Norfleet’s swindle, and the treacherous yet non-existent cliffs over Daytona Beach?

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  Your Con Stories

Swindling happens all the time, yet we rarely hear about, least of all from marks. What a fascinating, rich, and potentially helpful discussion that would be, if we could surmount our shame in order to begin it.

It was for that reason that I confessed to being swindled, and then confessed again to being swindled again. Now it’s your turn. How were you taken, or almost taken? Did your swindling conform or diverge from the standard script? What would you have done differently? Do you do anything differently now?
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  Favorite Creative Nonfiction

One of the most enjoyable parts of writing Norfleet’s story was registering my doubt about his story within my own narrative. This felt risky but worthwhile, because what would a story about deception be if it were told straight? The subject seemed to demand the form. What other books do you love that tell a true story but in a creative way?

Personally, I’m less interested in essays that I am in well-formed, substantive stories that break with convention. I’ll start you off with this list of creative histories that I put together on GoodReads, and my guest post for the Book Lady’s Blog that discusses the genre of creative nonfiction at greater length.

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