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The Man in the Rockefeller Suit: The Astonishing Rise and Spectacular Fall of a Serial Imposter Hardcover – 2 Jun 2011
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"Fascinating. ["The Man in the Rockefeller Suit"] is a brisk narrative that has all the pace and drive of a suspense novel."
-"The New York Times"
-"O, the Oprah Magazine"
"A tailor-made riveting read.... Forget fiction. Pop this jaw-dropper in your beach bag."
"[An] impeccably reported and fascinating book."
-"Los Angeles Times"
"This spectacular story is all in the entertaining details."
-"Newsweek/The Daily Beast" (One of 10 Must Read Summer Books)
-"People Magazine" (4 stars)
"A tasty souffl? of deceit. THE MAN IN THE ROCKEFELLER SUIT is a terrific read, well-reported and well-structured."
-"Portland Oregonian "
"[A]n intense and compellingly told tale of a self-made man, in every sense of that term."
-"The Washington Times"
"In striking detail, and at a rapid clip, the writer unravels theT
About the Author
A journalist for thirty-five years, Mark Seal is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and the author of Wildflower: An Extraordinary Life and Mysterious Death in Africa, about the murdered wildlife filmmaker and naturalist Joan Root. Seal was a 2010 National Magazine Award finalist for his Vanity Fair profile on Clark Rockefeller. He lives in Aspen, Colorado.
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The life of Christian Gerhartsreiter reads like a badly plotted novel. As a German teenager in the late Seventies he decides that he wants to come to America to make his fortune, and so he enters the country as a student and determines that he's never going back. He then spends the next thirty years lying, scamming and conning his way across the USA. But Christian Gerhartsreiter is no small-time con artist: he's a highly intelligent, ruthless, brazen charlatan whose motto was, "The bigger the lie the more they'll believe it." With an exceptional talent for acting, and a mind which could soak up information like a sponge, Gerhartsreiter managed to convince a number of gullible Americans that he was either the scion of a powerful German industrial family, a minor member of the British royal family, or latterly, a member of the extremely wealthy American Rockerfeller clan. Gerhartsreiter had very early on realised something about Americans and their society: that everybody wants to associated with the Elite.
After ingratiating himself into a small privileged Californian community and tricking small amounts of money from wealthy, naive, mainly female residents there, Gerhartsreiter suddenly leaves and heads for the big game: Old Money East Coast America. There he hits the jackpot when he meets Sandra Boss, a highly intelligent but emotionally weak and unworldly career woman. They marry and for twelve years she swallows his outrageous lie that he is a member of the Rockerfeller family. The fact that she never meets another Rockerfeller, and that her husband apparently has no money himself, somehow didn't raise any suspicions. The German conman apparently always had a lie to explain everything away. Happily,the couple managed to survive purely on Boss's considerable working income.
It all comes crashing around Gerhartsreiter's ears when his wife finally decides she's had enough of him and abandons the fraudster, taking their young daughter. After a court awards Boss full custody of the child, the German foolishly decides to kidnap the youngster during a routine legal visit; this sparks a national manhunt and, worst of all for Gerhartsreiter, a blaze of publicity. The lies, the numerous false identities and the scams all quickly come to light.
But worse is to come.
The reason for Gerhartsreiter's sudden dash from California is revealed: he murdered a man there, and probably his wife too. Mark Seal's book ends just before the murder trial, but Gerhartsreiter was convicted of the killing of a fellow called John Sohus. The body of Sohus's spouse Linda was never found. The conman was sentenced to 27 years-to-life for the crime.
This is an utterly fascinating and compelling story, and it's brilliantly told by Mark Seal. This book is well worth a read for anybody who's interested in true crime. I couldn't put it down.
THE MAN IN THE ROCKEFELLER SUIT is the real life tale of a German tourist named Christian Gerhartsreiter who arrived in the USA at the age of seventeen and for 30 years lived a self created odyssey by masquerading as everything from an Ivy League educated aristocrat to a member of the Rockefeller family. The man in question is vaguely reminiscent of Patricia Highsmith's sociopath protagonist Tom Ripley who made his first series appearance in her psychological thriller The Talented Mr. Ripley. Both the fictional Ripley and his real-life counterpart, Clark Rockefeller, are masters at manipulation, possess a genius for deceit and are adept at creating ingratiating personas.
Author Mark Seal has created a book filled with fascinating facts not the least of which is the allegation that "Clark Rockefeller" so loved his daughter that it led his desperate act of kidnapping the child which in turn led to the discovery of his multiple aliases and the possibility that he committed other, more heinous, crimes.
Personally, I do not envision this man as "father of the year" material. I believe that this was a man whose emotional makeup and colossal ego would not allow him to conceive of any situation he could not manipulate to his own advantage or any scenario where he was not in control........in other words he had gotten away with so much for so long, he refused to entertain the possibility that he would ever be caught. It would appear that Gerhartsreiter/Rockefeller began to believe in the myth he had created and in that world the words failure and defeat do not exist.
A stimulating look at a warped psyche. 3 ½ stars
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