Scoundrel

Cover of SCOUNDREL by Sarah Weinman
Sarah Weinman
4
Feb 22, 2022

Hello and welcome to #NewTitleTuesday, where we take a quick look at a new title that makes its publishing debut this week!

If you take a look at the top ten most downloaded lists of pretty much any podcast app, true crime stories dominate the medium. But if you've been paying attention, true crime has never NOT dominated American media, from podcasts to streaming documentaries to TV shows to Ann Rule books all the way back to the lurid police magazines of the pulp era and the daily broadsheets even before that. There's something about not being able to look away from the darkness that exists within us that makes people watch, or listen - or especially, check out from the library.

Sarah Weinman, editor and author of 2018's THE REAL LOLITA, is back with another true tale of a con man who suckered the highest levels of American culture and got away with it - at least, for a while. In SCOUNDREL she recounts the story of Edgar Smith, who was sentenced to death row in 1957 for the murder of a high school girl in New Jersey. Behind bars, Smith struck up a correspondence with various public figures to plead his case, most notably William F. Buckley, Jr., a writer, editor, and highly regarded public intellectual. Buckley helped give Smith's claims of innocence both weight and space in the public sphere, including a lengthy article in Esquire magazine. Smith was eventually granted a retrial and his sentence was later reduced. He was released in 1971, and was arrested for kidnapping and attempted murder in California five years later. He was sentenced to prison for the rest of his life, passing away in 2017.

Weinman draws a vivid and gripping picture of how a con artist conducts his craft as Smith used every avenue available to him to manipulate the people, events, and circumstances around him. Buckley certainly wasn't the only person who was caught up in Smith's lies, just the biggest name, and Weinman traces the letters, interviews, and court documents that tells a sordid yet sadly classic tale. SCOUNDREL is a book for fans of true crime, sure, but this is also a book that can cross the lines into general interest and would be ideal for a book group as well. Place your holds now, and we hope you enjoy!

Written by Gregg W.

I have surprisingly strong opinions about comic book characters.