In 1919, Texas rancher J. Frank Norfleet lost everything he had in a stock market swindle. He did what many other marks did - he went home, borrowed more money from his family, and returned for another round of swindling.
Only after he lost that second fortune did he reclaim control of his story. Instead of crawling back home in shame, he vowed to hunt down the five men who had conned him. Armed with a revolver and a suitcase full of disguises, Norfleet crisscrossed the country from Texas to Florida to California to Colorado, posing as a country hick and allowing himself to be ensnared by confidence men again and again to gather evidence on his enemies. Within four years, Frank Norfleet had become nationally famous for his quest to out-con the con men.
Through Norfleet's ingenious reverse-swindle, Amy Reading reveals the mechanics behind the scenes of the big con - a piece of performance art targeted to the most vulnerable points of human nature. Reading shows how the big con has been woven throughout U.S. history. From the colonies to the railroads and the Chicago Board of Trade, America has always been a speculative enterprise, and bunco men and bankers alike have always understood that the common man was perfectly willing to engage in minor fraud to get a piece of the expanding stock market - a trait that made him infinitely gullible.
Amy Reading's fascinating account of con artistry in America and Frank Norfleet's wild caper invites you into the crooked history of a nation on the hustle, constantly feeding the hunger and the hope of the mark inside.
"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
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A very pleasant surprise!
- Stephen G. Smith
a scattering of interesting facts
This is a very interesting story, but could have been dispatched in a long magazine article (e.g., New Yorker or Atlantic) rather than in a full-fledged book. If you are willing to tolerate wading through all these interesting facts, then the book could be to your liking. If you are, like me, sometimes impatient with extraneous material with little to do with the plot line, you may find it hard going.
The narrator was very good.
- D. Littman