The King of Confidence

The King of Confidence

A Tale of Utopian Dreamers, Frontier Schemers, True Believers, False Prophets, and the Murder of An American Monarch

Book - 2020
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The "unputdownable" (Dave Eggers, National Book award finalist) story of the most infamous American con man you've never heard of: James Strang, self-proclaimed divine king of earth, heaven, and an island in Lake Michigan, "perfect for fans of The Devil in the White Cit y" ( Kirkus )

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
Longlisted for the 2021 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction
A Michigan Notable Book
A CrimeReads Best True Crime Book of the Year

"A masterpiece." -- Nathaniel Philbrick

In the summer of 1843, James Strang, a charismatic young lawyer and avowed atheist, vanished from a rural town in New York. Months later he reappeared on the Midwestern frontier and converted to a burgeoning religious movement known as Mormonism. In the wake of the murder of the sect's leader, Joseph Smith, Strang unveiled a letter purportedly from the prophet naming him successor, and persuaded hundreds of fellow converts to follow him to an island in Lake Michigan, where he declared himself a divine king.

From this stronghold he controlled a fourth of the state of Michigan, establishing a pirate colony where he practiced plural marriage and perpetrated thefts, corruption, and frauds of all kinds. Eventually, having run afoul of powerful enemies, including the American president, Strang was assassinated, an event that was frontpage news across the country.

The King of Confidence tells this fascinating but largely forgotten story. Centering his narrative on this charlatan's turbulent twelve years in power, Miles Harvey gets to the root of a timeless American original: the Confidence Man. Full of adventure, bad behavior, and insight into a crucial period of antebellum history, The King of Confidence brings us a compulsively readable account of one of the country's boldest con men and the boisterous era that allowed him to thrive.
Publisher: New York : Little, Brown and Company, 2020.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780316463591
Characteristics: ix, 401 pages : illustrations, map ; 25 cm


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Authors Miles Harvey and Emily Gray Tedrowe

Con men and women have captured our imaginations and headlines since the beginning of newspapers. Two Chicago authors  - Miles Harvey and Emily Gray Tedrowe - appeared on the CPL virtual stage for a conversation on their new books featuring stories of deception and intrigue. Miles Havey's new book, The King of Confidence, digs into the strange and largely unknown story of James Strang and… (more)

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Jul 26, 2020

The story of Joseph Smith and his successor of leadership in the Church of Latter-Day Saints is the topic for this book. Focusing on James Jesse Strang, who has not publicly named, but assumes the leadership role is his. He claims Joseph Smith told him in a letter prior to Smith’s assassination. This is a book that reads like thriller fiction. He is all confidence man and Miles Harvey has brought this part of history to life. His lust for power was eventually destroyed, but it’s quite a story.


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