Fake: Lies, Forgery & eBay, by Kenneth Walton

April 7, 2011 at 14:06 (Book Reviews, Crime and Law Enforcement, Highly Rated Books) (, , , , )

7/10

It is not really natural to expect a third-rate con artist to be a terrific writer, but Kenneth Walton managed to put down a concise and thoroughly gripping account of his five years of dodgy dealing. When reading about famous cons, it is also taken rather for granted that there should be car chases, nefarious meetings in darkened alleys and safehouses sprinkled liberally throughout trackless wastes. To be an infamous fraudster on eBay is, let’s face it, not very cool or inspiring stuff. Nevertheless, Walton is able to make his criminal underworld of drab attic bedsits and failed law practice the stuff of legend, with even the daily ritual of watching the seconds tick past in virtual auctions causing the reader’s palms to grow just a little bit sticky.

It is not entirely clear whether his intention was to vindicate himself or draw on sympathy – the book contained more than enough confessions of contrition and shame to seem like the common-or-garden prison novel, but was written in such a reasonable and friendly way that one half suspects that in the midst of Walton’s tearstained confessions he is winking at the reader and sharing the joke that he didn’t really deserve all this. Certainly the reader is to be left in no doubt that the real villains are the greedy suckers bidding on worthless art – or worse, those heartless busybody vigilantes whose policing of eBay’s trust system led to his downfall. The FBI and prosecutors are passed over as a cruel and implacable faceless foe, while eBay’s own fraud unit are simply painted (excuse the pun) as being merely inept, and perhaps hatefully vindictive.

A thoroughly enjoyable book, and if Walton is heartlessly manipulative towards his readers, then, like the saps who bought his dollar-store paintings, if they believe everything he says then they probably deserve it.

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