Thursday, May 1, 2008

It's All True -- But Is It Crime?

Non-fiction is one of the areas I love to explore, but my stack of should-reads is usually pushed aside by the stuff I get paid for. Richard Rayner's fine review of David Samuels in the Los Angeles Times got me off my duff, however.

I had read Samuels' original piece about James Hogue in the New Yorker in 2001, and remember thinking then that it would make a great book. Now, seven years later, Samuels has expanded his piece about the petty thief and compulsive runner Hogue into an amazing work -- short but stuffed with obviously hard-won details. Hogue first conned his way into Princeton University and became a top student. He then used his odd charms and talents to bedazzle (and defraud) many citizens of Telluride, Colorado, from his shack across the street from Oprah Winfrey's former home. It's a sad and bitchily amusing story, told by a master.

As a companion piece, the gutsy New Press is publishing a collection of Samuels' articles from such magazines as Harper's and the New Yorker -- profiles of everyone from Donald Rumsfeld to an eternally optimistic dog track devotee.

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