Non - Fiction
King Con The Bizarre Adventures of the Jazz Ages Greatest Impostor
For the devilishly handsome erstwhile vaudeville singer Edgar Laplante, the summer of 1923 was a prelude to one of the twentieth-century’s most extraordinary adventures—an adventure that would require all his theatrical flair to deliver what would become the most demanding performance of his life. Aided by buckskins and a feathered headdress, Laplante reinvented himself as Chief White Elk: war hero, sports star, civil rights campaigner, Cherokee nation leader—and total fraud.
Under the pretense of recruiting for the military and selling government bonds, Laplante embarks upon a lucrative tour of the United States that attracts enormous crowds, picking up a naïve Native American wife along the way to lend a further air of authenticity. Soon Laplante decamps to London to appeal to King George V on behalf of the Cherokee. By 1923 he’s absconded to Paris, frequenting its decadent cabarets and rubbing elbows with the likes of James Joyce and Pablo Picasso.
As he moves down to the Riviera, he begins to set his sights on an even bigger mark: a prodigiously rich and glamorous Austrian countess. Laplante takes her as his lover and main benefactor. He cons her out of the equivalent of $42 million in today’s currency. The countess bankrolls a lavish tour of Italy, where Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime treats him like a visiting monarch. In every city, he tosses crisp banknotes from the window of their limousine to the fans who lay siege to his hotel. He’s now a worldwide celebrity, and all that adulation (plus a spiraling drug problem) has deluded him into believe that he really is a Cherokee chief. The noose begins to tighten, as the countess’s family intercedes…
King Con is a sumptuous recreation of this incomparably bizarre story. Never previously told in its entirety, Laplante’s tale proves that truth really is stranger than fiction.