Harper Collins

Scoundrel: How a Convicted Murderer Persuaded the Women Who Loved Him, the Conservative Establishment, and the Courts to Set Him

SKU: 9780062899767


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A Recommended Read from: The Los Angeles Times * Town and Country * The Seattle Times * Publishers Weekly * Lit Hub * Crime Reads * Alma

From the author of The Real Lolita and editor of Unspeakable Acts, the astonishing story of a murderer who conned the people around him--including conservative thinker William F. Buckley--into helping set him free

In the 1960s, Edgar Smith, in prison and sentenced to death for the murder of teenager Victoria Zielinski, struck up a correspondence with William F. Buckley, the founder of National Review. Buckley, who refused to believe that a man who supported the neoconservative movement could have committed such a heinous crime, began to advocate not only for Smith's life to be spared but also for his sentence to be overturned.

So begins a bizarre and tragic tale of mid-century America. Sarah Weinman's Scoundrel leads us through the twists of fate and fortune that brought Smith to freedom, book deals, fame, and eventually to attempting murder again. In Smith, Weinman has uncovered a psychopath who slipped his way into public acclaim and acceptance before crashing down to earth once again.

From the people Smith deceived--Buckley, the book editor who published his work, friends from back home, and the women who loved him--to Americans who were willing to buy into his lies, Weinman explores who in our world is accorded innocence, and how the public becomes complicit in the stories we tell one another.

Scoundrel shows, with clear eyes and sympathy for all those who entered Smith's orbit, how and why he was able to manipulate, obfuscate, and make a mockery of both well-meaning people and the American criminal justice system. It tells a forgotten part of American history at the nexus of justice, prison reform, and civil rights, and exposes how one man's ill-conceived plan to set another man free came at the great expense of Edgar Smith's victims.

Review Quotes:

Weinman, rightly acclaimed for 'The Real Lolita," again examines the misogyny inherent in true-crime culture, then and now.-- Los Angeles Times

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An in-depth exploration of how outside influence and support can affect the criminal justice system's slow-moving cogs, as well as the narrative of a con artist who managed to hurt a great deal of people.--NPR

Review Quotes:

'Scoundrel' is about who receives the benefit of our doubt and the privileges that attend that trust, whether or not it is warranted.... Instead of wondering what will happen, the reader is asked to consider the more important question: how it did.... Her research is meticulous and extensive, allowing us to witness step by shocking step how Buckley and Wilkins chose to believe and then hand a microphone to a murderer."-- New York Times Book Review

Review Quotes:

Provocative and unsettling. It compels the reader to ponder weighty questions: Did a savage thug exploit smart, decent people? Can altruism sometimes be as lethal as psychopathology? Evil pervades this book, but it makes for a terrific read.--Air Mail

Review Quotes:

Weinman explores how the sociopathic Smith manipulated and abused both the women he harmed and the naive do-gooders, like Buckley, who became his dupes.--New York Post

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Meticulously researched, "Scoundrel" paints a portrait of a criminal adept at targeting people like Buckley who he could win over -- but whose violent instincts eventually led to his downfall."--Associated Press

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With the precision of an atom splicer, Scoundrel probes the psychological fallout for those in Smith's orbit.--Vanity Fair

Review Quotes:

Exhaustively reported and compassionately told, Scoundrel shows how the justice system is easily manipulated, and how it often fails vulnerable women. Like The Real Lolita before it, Scoundrel proves once again that Weinman is a modern master of the genre.--Esquire


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