Download The Mark Inside: A Perfect Swindle, a Cunning Revenge, and a Small History of the Big Con Audiobook

The Mark Inside: A Perfect Swindle, a Cunning Revenge, and a Small History of the Big Con Audiobook, by Amy Reading Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Amy Reading Narrator: Richard McGonagle Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: March 2012 ISBN: 9780307987402
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (208 ratings) (rate this audio book)
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In 1919, Texas rancher J. Frank Norfleet lost everything he had in a stock market swindle. He did what many other marks did—he went home, borrowed more money from his family, and returned for another round of swindling.  
Only after he lost that second fortune did he reclaim control of his story. Instead of crawling back home in shame, he vowed to hunt down the five men who had conned him. Armed with a revolver and a suitcase full of disguises, Norfleet crisscrossed the country from Texas to Florida to California to Colorado, posing as a country hick and allowing himself to be ensnared by confidence men again and again to gather evidence on his enemies. Within four years, Frank Norfleet had become nationally famous for his quest to out-con the con men.
Through Norfleet’s ingenious reverse-swindle, Amy Reading reveals the mechanics behind the scenes of the big con—a piece of performance art targeted to the most vulnerable points of human nature. Reading shows how the big con has been woven throughout U.S. history. From the colonies to the railroads and the Chicago Board of Trade, America has always been a speculative enterprise, and bunco men and bankers alike have always understood that the common man was perfectly willing to engage in minor fraud to get a piece of the expanding stock market—a trait that made him infinitely gullible.
Amy Reading’s fascinating account of con artistry in America and Frank Norfleet’s wild caper invites you into the crooked history of a nation on the hustle, constantly feeding the hunger and the hope of the mark inside. Download and start listening now!


Quotes & Awards

  • Vibrant characterizations. . . . This narrative of vigilante justice flows like fiction, as con artistry is illuminated throughout, with resonance in today’s world of high-tech con artistry. Publishers Weekly
  • Fascinating . . . Norfleet’s quest seems both quixotic and inspiring. Kirkus Reviews
  • Most scholarship reads like a trip to the dentist. The Mark Inside reads like a trip to the track. David Mamet, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Glengarry Glen Ross and House of Games
  • With pitch-perfect storytelling and stylish prose, Amy Reading weaves a gripping tale of a grand swindle and even grander act of revenge, a solo manhunt throughout North America that’s as hilarious as it is compelling. Rarely has history been this fun, fast-paced, and fulfilling. The Mark Inside is a book you won’t put down and a story you’ll never forget. Karen Abbott, New York Times best-selling author of American Rose and Sin in the Second City
  • Part page-turning crime drama, part juicy tale of vengeance and obsession, part informative social history, and part  intriguing epistemological rumination about literary truth, Amy Reading’s The Mark Inside is always great fun. From the first page Ms. Reading hooks the reader as shrewdly as any of the bunco men she writes about—only she makes good on this enticement, delivering narrative gold. Howard Blum, best-selling author of The Floor of Heaven and American Lightning
  • In the era of Bernie Madoff, Nigerian spam scams, and other sordid rackets, it’s heartening to remember that swindling once took a touch more finesse. . . . The Mark Inside is an astounding tale, brought to vivid life by an historian who has had to become an expert at distinguishing fact from romantic fiction. Jim Kelly, Businessweek
  • Reading doesn’t swindle her readers. . . . She delivers the goods, with enough scholarly information on America's con men to keep intellectually minded readers from feeling guilty about reading such a whopping good tale. Doug Childers, Richmond Times-Dispatch
  • Amy Reading brings to life one actual con in a book as riveting as a movie. . . . An amazing piece of historical research that will ensnare the reader. Arthur T. Vanderbilt, Newark Star-Ledger
  • Engrossing. . . . [Reading] gets to the center of both Norfleet’s story and the mass appeal of the con artist as a figure in American culture. Ian Crouch, The Paris Review Daily
  • Not only does she artfully relate Norfleet's revenge, but [Reading] also places it in the context of scammers dead and living. This is not a history of Ponzi schemes, and it does not reach the heights (or should I say depths) of Bernie Madoff's operation. It is, however, an engaging book for anybody who wants to better understand misconduct in the realm of finance—and the consequences of such misconduct for everybody involved. Steve Weinberg, USA Today
  • “In these pages are brilliant portraits of Florida before retirement groves, of wild-west Denver before the tech boom, and of Texas before the Bush family decamped there from Greenwich, Connecticut. The country was younger then, though not more innocent. . . . A ripping good read. David M. Shribman, The Boston Globe
  • An astonishing story of one victim’s determined quest to bring down a ring of swindling confidence men.  We have rigged fights, fake stock exchanges, gun battles, jailbreaks, a hardy Texan, an honest dentist and a righteous DA.  Here’s early twentieth-century capitalism—a great humbug run by the ghost of a grinning P.T. Barnum. Ann Fabian, author of Card Sharps and Bucket Shops
  • It’s tempting to say that The Mark Inside reads like a historical novel, but really it’s more like a great heist film. Amy Reading entertains while explaining why all Americans—from Ben Franklin to Bernie Madoff—are part trickster and part sucker. Scott A. Sandage, author of Born Losers

Listener Reviews

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  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Nancy | 2/12/2014

    " For someone that is really interested in how the "con" began and works this would be an excellent read. It was to detailed for me and not as much fiction as I thought. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kate | 2/10/2014

    " Received a free copy from First Impressions. This a nonfiction account of con artists and swindles from the 1910s-20s with a prticular emphasis on J. Frank Norfleet, a Texan conned out of $45,000. He spent the next several years capturing the five men who stole his money and then the rest of his life helping arrest con artists and other criminals (all while remaining a private citizen and not a member of law enforcement). Amy Reading tells his story against the backdrop of a large enterprise of con artists and swindlers who are eventually brought down by the Denver District Attorney. Corruption is rampant among most law enforcement agencies and Norfleet helps in the takedown of 25 criminals and then at the subsequent trial. Originally an academic idea, this book is at times a bit dry and could have been more interesting and captivating. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Liss | 2/3/2014

    " I wish I could remember why I originally decided to read this book - it's not my usual thing at all, and parts of it dragged on longer than my interest level really warranted. Just the same, the kernel of a story here is really interesting - con men, or confidence men, and the way they swindled their marks in the early twentieth century - and the story of a few particular marks, and how they were revenged. The best thing I learned from reading this was that so much of the language of con artistry has become pervasive and watered down. There was also a lot of fascinating discussion about the shift in perspective around this time from speculation as a sin and akin to gambling to the more modern mindset of investment as being a legitimate business prospect, something that everybody can (and should) virtuously participate in. Never really stopped to query that before but it meshes perfectly with some other things I've learned recently about shifts in cultural attitudes from the early 1800s through today. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kris | 2/2/2014

    " I guess this book was interesting, being a history of the con job. But the author tends towards digression, and it just kept losing me. So, informative but not engaging. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Stella | 1/29/2014

    " I better hurry. Book club is the 29th of August. I just barely got the book. I may finish it later. It just didn't appeal to me at the time. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Carter | 1/14/2014

    " Great when it sticks to the Norfleet story, rambling when it doesn't. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Pamela | 1/14/2014

    " A more promising premise than the reality of the book. Too bogged down in details of one man's "reverse swindle". "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Caywoodreads | 12/30/2013

    " Oooh, I can't wait for this one to come out! Amy's a fantastic writer, so I know that she'll make this little-known bit of history into an engrossing story. Hurry up and get here, March! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Andrea | 12/20/2013

    " An interesting tale indeed, and a great, in-depth lesson in the history of con men in America. Just wish there had been a little less pedantic tone to the lesson and a little more life in the underlying tale. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Megan | 12/3/2013

    " I liked this book - historically interesting (or depressing) as well. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 A | 11/27/2013

    " i don't read as much non-fiction, but this story was an interesting one to follow. more of a 3.75 for a rating. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Meredith | 11/17/2013

    " Made it 75% of the way through, but had to stop as reading became a chore. Should have been a fascinating story, but it became bogged down with unnecessary exposition and commentary. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mark | 10/12/2013

    " Interesting history of grifters, cons and marks in America. (That scene from the Sting was based on a lot of history.) "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Steve | 9/20/2013

    " I liked it. It gives a great history of conmen in America, I was really surprised to find out that Denver was the hub of confidence men in the early 1900's. If you are into Colorado history this is especially a great book, or if you like movies about cons this would be good also. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 April | 9/7/2013

    " This book had a lot of fun historical info about Denver and reminded me how young this city really is! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 James | 6/12/2013

    " This is the story of J. Frank Northfleet who got himself conned in 1919 and then set about hunting down the men who conned him (and a good deal of other con artists) over several years. Interesting background about con artistry and the background of these (mostly) true events. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Keith | 3/18/2013

    " Stunning work of cultural history "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Pablo | 1/16/2013

    " Aside from a couple of areas where it bogged down a bit, this was a page turner! A real life story that reads like a somewhat unbelievable novel, along with some great research and history of con men in the twentieth century. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Robert | 1/2/2013

    " It was a decent book marking the life of a man who was after con men. A good read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Alex | 12/17/2012

    " Non-fiction book that reads like a crime-caper thriller while also providing a clinical insight of the mechanics of the swindle and con-men activities. Great read! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bess | 10/26/2012

    " It's like modern day trickster mythology. This is a fascinating history of the long con and the rise of the confidence scam, with particular attention paid to a very colorful hunter of con artists who seems to have been a bit of a con artist himself. A page turner that taught me a lot of history. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jon | 9/15/2012

    " Pretty good read. Great history of Denver in the book. Interesting to hear about the swindles that went on in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Book was a gift and not one that I would have normally picked out, but worthwhile. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Cheryl | 6/29/2012

    " The story regarding the con was interesting but author peppered story with other cons. Very hard to read as there was no flow from one con to the other. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 David | 3/16/2012

    " Very different from other 'con' books. This book provides the 'mechanics' behind an 'assembly line' style con (i.e. specialization of roles, stream of victims...) which was popular during early 1900's. This could be the predecessor of the 'Boiler Room' operation in 90s. "

About the Narrator

Richard McGonagle is an Earphones Award–winning narrator and an experienced film, television, and voice-over actor. He has appeared in such films as Rules of Engagement and such television shows as The Practice and JAG.