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The Man in the Rockefeller Suit: The Astonishing Rise and Spectacular Fall of a Serial Imposterby Mark Seal
"Rebaking his 2009 Vanity Fair story about the immigrant who changed his name and fooled New York society, Mark Seal has produced a tasty souffle of deceit. The Man in the Rockefeller Suit: The Astonishing Rise and Fall of a Serial Imposter is a terrific read, well-reported and well-structured." Anne Saker, The Oregonian (Read the entire Oregonian review)
Synopses & Reviews
A real-life Talented Mr. Ripley, the unbelievable thirty-year run of a shape-shifting con man.
The story of Clark Rockefeller is a stranger-than-fiction twist on the classic American success story of the self-made man — because Clark Rockefeller was totally made up. The career con man who convincingly passed himself off as Rockefeller was born in a small village in Germany. At seventeen, obsessed with getting to America, he flew into the country on dubious student visa documents and his journey of deception began.
Over the next thirty years, boldly assuming a series of false identities, he moved up the social ladder through exclusive enclaves on both coasts — culminating in a stunning twelve-year marriage to a rising star businesswoman with a Harvard MBA who believed she'd wed a Rockefeller.
The imposter charmed his way into exclusive clubs and financial institutions — working on Wall Street, showing off an extraordinary art collection-until his marriage ended and he was arrested for kidnapping his daughter, which exposed his past of astounding deceptions as well as a connection to the bizarre disappearance of a California couple in the mid-1980s.
The story of The Man in the Rockefeller Suit is a probing and cinematic exploration of an audacious imposer-and a man determined to live the American dream by any means necessary.
"Hiding behind one of America's wealthiest names, a German immigrant duped the world in a decades-long charade that Vanity Fair contributing editor Seal unravels in this fascinating account. Born Christian Gerhartsreiter in Germany in 1961 , he left home at age 17, landing with an acquaintance in Connecticut. Over the next 14 years, he carefully honed his impersonation skills. He shed his German accent and began acquiring aliases, first in wealthy San Marino, Calif., and then, in 1992, in Manhattan society, where he made a calculatedly low-key entrance as James Frederick Mills Clark Rockefeller. He soon married Sandra Boss, a financial executive, whose money Rockefeller spent with abandon. Only when she filed for divorce after 12 rocky years of marriage did his carefully constructed facade crumble, and he went on the run with their young daughter, sparking an FBI chase and a prison sentence for kidnapping and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. Seal (Wildflower: An Extraordinary Life and Mysterious Death in Africa) brilliantly reconstructs and dissects Gerhartsreiter's strange life, weaving in interviews with those who knew — or thought they knew — one of the men he pretended to be along the way. (Earlier this month, the L.A. Times reported that prosecutors have brought an indictment against Gerhartsreiter in a 1980s murder in San Marino.) (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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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