The Real McCoy by Darin Strauss

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 5 Critic Reviews



The New York Times Book Review called Chang and Eng, Darin Strauss's extraordinary debut novel, "a spirited story of heroic longing." Joyce Carol Oates called it "a remarkable first of the most riskily imagined and successfully realized novels I've read in years." Now this uncommonly gifted storyteller brings us another strikingly original novel.

Are you the Real McCoy?

Loosely based on the real life of a turn-of-the-century icon and charlatan, The Real McCoy introduces a character like no other in recent contemporary fiction. "Kid" McCoy was a man of many talents and faces: championship boxer, jewel thief, scam artist, and grifter extraordinaire. Unfolding against the tumultuous backdrop of history, his story becomes a fascinating mirror of the times as he moves from city to city in pursuit of the next con, always living life as he becomes a legend and a symbol of all that's true in America. An audacious and unforgettable novel about identity, illusion, and the search for love, The Real McCoy is bound to become another literary sensation.

About Darin Strauss

See more books from this Author
Darin Strauss is the award-winning author of the national and international bestseller Chang and Eng, as well as the screenplay for Disney Films and director Julie Taymor. His work has been translated into 14 languages and he teaches at New York University and lives in Brooklyn, NY. DISCUSSIONQUES: Q> What gives Selby the idea and the confidence to take over McCoy's identity? Is it his family; the town; his insecurities? Q> Would Virgil Selby have gotten away with taking McCoy's identity today? "Would it even be possible to pull that classy a swindle in today's gleaming world where everybody knows everything?" Q> "In the big flimflam, the bolder the fiction, the better. Preposterousness makes a lie more believable." Is this true? Q> Selby is trying to be someone else. Susan is an actress trying to always appear confident and strong. Are Susan and McCoy drawn to each other because they are so much alike? Q> Why did Susan stay with McCoy during their first marriage, especially after hearing all of the lies? If McCoy had not have left her, do you think they would have been happy? Q> "Susan was an angry person and she was kind, she was blustery and she was shy; she was loving and not; she was something else, he thought. No one woman could be drawn from all those traits. Maybe the Susan he'd chosen to shadow out from the jumble was just his invention." Was this true? Do you think that in most relationships people choose to see what they want to see? Q> Why did McCoy marry Rosella Bunker? Do believe Rosella meant to flimflam McCoy from the beginning? Is McCoy more upset about being flimflammed than about Rosella leaving him? Q> What was it about McCoy that made Susan keep loving him and forgiving him? Would Susan have loved Virgil Selby if he wasn't trying to be McCoy? Q> Why does Virgil Selby trust Johnnie Gold, even when Selby knows Gold is one of the best flimflammers around? Discuss their relationship. Do you think Johnnie felt the same love for his friend as McCoy did? Do you think Johnnie knew what the outcome would be when he ruined McCoy's image? Was Johnnie trying to prove his ability to flimflam better than McCoy? Q> Johnnie says, "McCoy, he who has fallen from a height is lower than his neighbor who has never climbed! And your life will be a sad echo of a sad shell of a past glory!" Is this just another of Johnnie's philosophic thoughts or is this statement true? Is it better to lead a life without risk or to take risks and fail? Was McCoy's time at the top worth all the trouble? Q> When McCoy/Selby returns home to live, he becomes a very different person. What kind of life do you think Virgil Selby would have led had he not taken on McCoy's identity? Do you think that the people of Bluffton Creek would have treated Selby differently if he had kept up the personality and charisma of McCoy? Is it true that you "can't go home again?" Q> Discuss Selby's relationship with his father. Does it make Selby ashamed to have his father see him as McCoy? Q> "In a flash of lightning, McCoy could see there was something vulgar about her. Mostly it was her marriage to successful, filthy rich, ugly old Utnap." What else about Susan did McCoy find to be vulgar? Q> Why do you think McCoy pulled the last flimflam? It was more elaborate than anything he had done in the past. What was he trying to prove? Why did Susan join him in planning this scam? Is having Susan's love not enough for McCoy? Q> McCoy is searching for "The Why" throughout The Real McCoy. Why is this so important to him? Near the end of the novel he thinks, "It turns out The Why hadn't been about the fame of deathless fame, or even the money..." What does it turn out to be for him? Is it the same for everyone?
Published January 1, 2002 by Penguin Group (USA). 320 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction, Humor & Entertainment. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Real McCoy

Kirkus Reviews

See more reviews from this publication

There's ample entertainment value in this rather desperately inventive second historical novel by the author of the highly praised debut tale Chang and Eng (2000).

Jun 24 2010 | Read Full Review of The Real McCoy

Publishers Weekly

See more reviews from this publication

Strauss follows a brilliant debut novel (Chang and Eng) with more fictive doctoring of history in this daring, unique reenactment of the life of reed-thin, "b

Apr 29 2002 | Read Full Review of The Real McCoy

Publishers Weekly

See more reviews from this publication

When he moves to Manhattan, vaudeville actress Susan Fields catches his eye and they quickly marry, just in time for a spectacular rematch with Tommy Ryan—which is set up for McCoy to win but backfires, sending McCoy into a depression compounded by an unexpected visit from his father.

| Read Full Review of The Real McCoy

Book Reporter

Told from various points in time (sometimes hampering the excitement of McCoy's life and times), McCoy's life unfolds slowly before us.

Jan 23 2011 | Read Full Review of The Real McCoy

Entertainment Weekly

Strauss -- author of Chang and Eng, a debut lollapalooza about conjoined twins from Siam -- writes about the Gatsbyfied Virgil Selby, a boy who just rolled up out of nowhere in 1895, swiped the identity of an itinerant boxer, and remade himself as a prizefighter with a devastating corkscrew ...

Jun 14 2002 | Read Full Review of The Real McCoy

Reader Rating for The Real McCoy

An aggregated and normalized score based on 15 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes

Rate this book!

Add Review