Drake's Fortune by Richard Rayner
The Fabulous True Story of the World's Greatest Confidence Artist

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His scam was as simple as it was brazen. Before and during the Great Depression, Oscar Hartzell persuaded tens of thousands of Midwesterners to part with millions of dollars to start a legal fund that would see the mythical fortune of Sir Francis Drake restored to his rightful heir. In return for their contributions, donors would get shares in the riches, estimated to be worth $100 billion. The money of course went in the pocket of Hartzell, who transformed himself into a hedonistic English aristocrat even as the folks back home continued to see him as a hero.

As he recounts this amazing tale, Richard Rayner tells the larger history of cons in America. We have always had a soft spot for the crafty or larger-than-life swindler, and with Drake’s Fortune, Rayner offers a delightful portrait of a uniquely American character.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

About Richard Rayner

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Born in England, Richard Rayner now lives in Los Angeles. His previous books include the memoir The Blue Suit and the novels The Cloud Sketcher, L.A. Without a Map, and Murder Book. His work has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, and many other publications.
Published October 14, 2003 by Anchor. 240 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Drake's Fortune

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While Hartzell lost his cool once or twice in custody, he usually maintained equilibrium, knowing others would believe him if he appeared to believe himself.

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Publishers Weekly

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"The confidence man," Rayner suggests in this lively biography of rakish swindler Oscar Hartzell, "might in fact be the great covert, or not so covert, American hero."

Mar 18 2002 | Read Full Review of Drake's Fortune: The Fabulous...

Entertainment Weekly

Coming on the heels of Darin Strauss' similarly snake-oil-themed The Real McCoy, Rayner's history chronicles the exploits of Oscar Hartzell, who for 20 years ran one of the most mind-boggling scams ever to hoodwink the American public.

Jun 21 2002 | Read Full Review of Drake's Fortune: The Fabulous...

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