Synopses & Reviews
From Darin Strauss, the bestselling author of Chang and Eng (A Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year), comes the unforgettable story of "Kid" McCoy: boxer, jewel thief, scam artist, and the most married man in America. A fascinating mirror of the tumultuous backdrop of America at the turn of the century, The Real McCoy is "a muscular and entertaining novel about lies, scams, flimflams, and the inconvenience of truth" (GQ)
"Our byword for honesty may be built on a lie, and in Strauss's capable hands, thereby hangs quite a tale...McCoy himself is the novel's greatest accomplishment: a made-up figure, a fiction and, for all that, completely real." —The New York Times Book Review
"Darin Strauss is one of America's handful of young, great novelists...If his debut was a carnival, this is a World's Fair. It's that ambitious, that fun." —The Austin Chronicle
From the bestselling author of "Chang and Eng, " "a spirited story of heroic longing" ("New York Times Book Review"), comes the unforgettable story of "Kid" McCoy: boxer, jewel thief, scam artist, and the most married man in America.
About the Author
Darin Strauss is the award-winning author of the national and international bestseller Chang and Eng, as well as its 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, New York.
Reading Group Guide
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?