Soft Cover, Good Condition, Anchor Books, 224 Pages, First Anchor Books Edition,
His scam was as simple as it was brazen. Before and during the Great Depression, Oscar Hartzell persuaded tens of thousands of Midwesterners to part with millions of dollars to start a legal fund that would see the mythical fortune of Sir Francis Drake restored to his rightful heir. In return for their contributions, donors would get shares in the riches, estimated to be worth $100 billion. The money of course went in the pocket of Hartzell, who transformed himself into a hedonistic English aristocrat even as the folks back home continued to see him as a hero.
As he recounts this amazing tale, Richard Rayner tells the larger history of cons in America. We have always had a soft spot for the crafty or larger-than-life swindler, and with Drake’s Fortune, Rayner offers a delightful portrait of a uniquely American character.