The career con man who convincingly passed himself off as Clark Rockefeller was born in a small village in Germany. At seventeen, obsessed with getting to America, he flew into the country on dubious student visa documents and thus began his journey of deception.
Over the next thirty years, boldly assuming a series of false identities, he moved up the social ladder through exclusive enclaves on both coasts, culminating in a stunning twelve-year marriage to a rising-star businesswoman with a Harvard MBA who believed she'd wed a member of the infamously wealthy Rockefeller family.
The impostor charmed his way into exclusive clubs and financial institutions - working on Wall Street, showing off an extraordinary art collection - until his marriage ended, and he was arrested for kidnapping his daughter, which exposed his past of astounding deceptions as well as a connection to the bizarre disappearance of a California couple in the mid-1980s.
Mark Seal's absorbing biography about con man Christian Karl Gerhartstreiter (aka Clark Rockefeller), The Man in the Rockefeller Suit, invites the reader to contemplate the power of a big lie, the fluidity of a person's identity, and the limits of credulity. Seal succeeds in fleshing out a personality so unfixed that, at times, the man at the center of his narrative seems completely empty on the inside - save for a relentless drive toward personal wealth and social advancement. (Reviewed by Jo Perry).
While the subject's aloofness and arrogance keep the reader from rooting for him, one almost has to admire the chutzpah.... The talented Mr. Rockefeller could have come right out of a Hitchcock film. For crime buffs and fans of flimflam.
Starred Review. Seal... brilliantly reconstructs and dissects Gerhartsreiter's strange life, weaving in interviews with those who knew - or thought they knew - one of the men he pretended to be along the way.
Starred Review. Uncomfortably gripping material... Impossible to put down... Patricia Highsmith couldn't have written a more compelling thriller.
Starred Review. Prepare yourself for one of the most intriguing, compelling stories of audacious criminality you're likely to read this year.... Full marks to author Seal, too, for making this true-life story as suspenseful as any crime novel.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Diane L. Just how can a man fool so many people? This book is a marvelous glimpse into: 1. a true shape shifter who is a sociopath 2. just how gullible and shallow people can be. The book leaves you with the question did he or didn't he commit murder. You'll have fun tossing this question in... Read More
You can't read The Man in the Rockefeller Suit without wondering if Rockefeller would have conned you too. While Seal notes that a few people failed to believe Rockefeller's stories or personas, the majority of people Gerhartstreiter met were more than happy to call the eccentric aristocrat friend, neighbor, business partner, club member, or even "uncle" and were generous with their time and money as well.
People in the business of detecting lies have offered various theories about how liars give themselves away. Widely recognized signs that a person is lying, such as shifty eyes, unusual speech patterns or inflections in the voice, awkward body language, and sweating, are all useful tools in identifying possible liars, however these "tells" aren't always reliable; they are often present in people who are nervous but also telling the truth.
In his blog for the Association for Psychological Science, Full Frontal Psychology, writer Wray Herbert notes that, "detecting deceit... is maddeningly difficult. Most of us can spot barely more than half of...
A marvelous portrait of a boundlessly audacious rogue on the loose in an America that was ripe for the bamboozling.
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