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Biblio File

Imposters: Real and Imagined


Imposter. Con man. Rip-off artist. Sham. They're all words for those who faking it is an occupation. Some of the phonies on this list are fictional, while some come straight from real life. Whether you're interested in teasing out the differences between appearances and reality or you just like a good thriller, our favorite scam stories will make you look at charming strangers in a whole new light.

Six Degrees of Separation: A Play by John Guare
The play was inspired by the real-life story of David Hampton, a con man who managed to convince a number of people that he was the son of actor Sidney Poitier.

The Grifters by Jim Thompson
An unlikely team of con artists – Roy Dillon, his girlfriend, and his mother – set out on a long-game grift.

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith 
Tom Ripley, an ambitious young man – and expert mimic – meets a wealthy industrialist who hires him to bring home his playboy son, Dickie Greenleaf.

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen
In the first book of the Ascendance Trilogy, a nobleman devises a plan to find the impersonator of the king's long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role.

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
Young Locke Lamora learns the tricks of the trade under the instruction of a con artist. Locke grows up to lead a band of thieves and becomes infamous for duping even the underworld’s most feared – but someone may be coming up behind him in this crime caper meets fantasy.

Catch Me If You Can by Jeff Nathanson
Frank Abagnale is one of the most daring imposters in history. In his brief career, he passed himself off as a pilot, a doctor, a lawyer, a professor, and cashed $2.5 million in forged checks, all before he turned 21.

Conning Harvard: Adam Wheeler, the Con Artist Who Faked His Way Into the Ivy League by Julie Zauzmer
The story of Adam Wheeler, who lies his way into Harvard, eventually aiming his con at scholarship boards to the detriment of his fraud-filled past.

Blood Will Out: The True Story of A Murder, A Mystery, and A Masquerade by Walter Kirn
In the summer of 1988, author Walter Kirn delivered a dog to the home of Clark Rockefeller, who has adopted the dog over the Internet. Thus began a fifteen-year relationship that drew Kirn into the world of a serial imposter, kidnapper and murderer.

The Man in the Rockefeller Suit: The Astonishing Rise and Spectacular Fall of A Serial Imposter by Mark Seal
A work of investigative journalism that goes beyond the headlines to explore the case of Clark Rockefeller, a descendent of the Rockefeller family, who kidnapped his own daughter and vanished. Tips poured in, but all led to dead ends because Clark Rockefeller did not exist.


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