The Mark Inside by Amy Reading
A Perfect Swindle, a Cunning Revenge, and a Small History of the Big Con

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Synopsis

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.
 

About Amy Reading

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Amy Reading holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University. She lives in upstate New York with her husband and two children.
 
Published March 6, 2012 by Vintage. 304 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Business & Economics, History, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Mark Inside

Kirkus Reviews

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A look at the art of the con, based on the story of a man who fought back against the con artists who swindled him.

Jan 15 2012 | Read Full Review of The Mark Inside: A Perfect Sw...

Publishers Weekly

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With the con men finally behind bars, Norfleet became a celebrity and borrowed the style of dime novels to write his 1924 autobiography, Norfleet: The Actual Experiences of a Texas Rancher’s 30,000-Mile Transcontinental Chase After Five Confidence Men, a key source for Reading, who in her first...

Jan 30 2012 | Read Full Review of The Mark Inside: A Perfect Sw...

New York Journal of Books

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“Ms. Reading’s telling of this story, enmeshed in the history of American identity formation, is a tale for children of all ages.”

Mar 06 2012 | Read Full Review of The Mark Inside: A Perfect Sw...

Dallas News

We owe Reading, who lives in upstate New York, a vote of thanks for calling the irresistible rascal back in an era of scams, schemes and scandals that make “Big Joe” Furey’s fleecing of Norfleet look like child’s play.

Mar 03 2012 | Read Full Review of The Mark Inside: A Perfect Sw...

Review (Barnes & Noble)

And yet in The Mark Inside: A Perfect Swindle, a Cunning Revenge, and a Small History of the Big Con, Amy Reading makes a compelling argument that the country would never have achieved its Manifest Destiny if people weren't willing to con (and perhaps as important, be conned) in the eighteenth an...

Apr 17 2012 | Read Full Review of The Mark Inside: A Perfect Sw...

Portland Book Review

Most of the second half of the book concerns the roll-up of the large con organization in Denver in the early 1920s.

Jul 23 2012 | Read Full Review of The Mark Inside: A Perfect Sw...

Business Week

Frank Norfleet made it his mission to nab the men who swindled him Max 250 characters The tale of a masterful con inspires nostalgia for the glory days of the bunco job The Mark Inside: A Perfect Swindle, a Cunning Revenge, and a Small History of the Big ConBy Amy ReadingKnopf;

Mar 29 2012 | Read Full Review of The Mark Inside: A Perfect Sw...

The Paris Review

Take, for example, the Chicago con man Joseph “Yellow Kid” Weil, who claimed to have stolen more than eight million dollars from assorted marks, as victims in the con game are known, during a career that spanned more than half a century.

Mar 19 2012 | Read Full Review of The Mark Inside: A Perfect Sw...

Reader Rating for The Mark Inside
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