Once upon a time, in the heart of Central America, there was a country named Poyais. It was exceptionally rich in natural resources, civilization, and culture and was ruled by the brave and enlightened Scottish soldier, Sir Gregor MacGregor, who became its ruler after his heroic exploits in the fight for South American independence. On a cold January morning in 1823, a group of Scottish immigrants looking for a new life set sail for this tropical Eden called Poyais.
The only catch was that it didn't exist.
Two months later the ship landed on the swamp-infested Mosquito Coast and the settlers realized that they had become the victims of one of the most elaborate hoaxes in history. The land they had been sold was nonexistent, the banknotes and guidebooks they carried with them were forgeries, their documents were worthless. Poyais was a fiction. The man responsible? Sir Gregor MacGregor. Who was this eccentric, scurrilous man? And why is he such a loveable rogue?
Sinclair ably turns MacGregor's hoax into a sinister marvel.
Cleveland Plain Dealer - Daniel Dyer
Sinclair writes with brio and with the confidence born of intimate knowledge of his subject. Only when he attempts to display all the myriad and sometimes twisted threads of MacGregor's financial machinations does his prose become an attractive but confusing cat's cradle.
Although the book advertisement suggests that MacGregor was an eccentric rogue as lovable as he was scurrilous, Sinclair is not very successful--to this reviewer, at least--in making MacGregor and his land scam very lovable. Perhaps more useful is Sinclair's well-researched and clearly presented mini-portrait of the economic and social conditions of Britain in the 1820s and 1830s-conditions that made hoaxes such as MacGregor's imaginary Poyais seem attractive and persuasive.
....the outrageous and tragic story of Poyais, a South American nation that, as the subtitle indicates, never actually existed....While the book suffers from a cumbersome foreword... Sinclair provides a fascinating glimpse into 19th-century conquest, warfare and utopian ideals.
The bizarre tale of a Central American land swindle that rivals for implausibility those country song lyrics about ocean-front property in Arizona. ....Sinclair does a masterful job explaining the intricacies of the swindle, though the absence of maps is regrettable. A top-notch survey of the vast dimensions of human greed.
Starred Review. It's a yarn so remarkable that many wouldn't swallow it as fiction. Yet one devours Sinclair's limpid prose to find out whether and when MacGregor got his comeuppance...Hollywood couldn't create a more reprehensible, or more effective, scoundrel.
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