Caveat Emptor: The Secret Life of an American Forger

Ken Perenyi, Author
Ken Perenyi. Pegasus (Norton, dist.), $27.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-60598-360-8
Paperback - 314 pages - 978-1-60598-502-2
Compact Disc - 978-1-62064-709-7
Ebook - 368 pages - 978-1-4532-6529-1
Portable Document Format (PDF) - 368 pages - 978-1-4804-1625-3
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Painter, draft dodger, and art world huckster Perenyi offers a facile account of the glory days of his 30-year career as an art forger. His story begins in “the Castle,” a dilapidated New Jersey estate inhabited by two beatnik artists who take in the younger Perenyi as one of their own. With his new mentors, Perenyi pays frequent visits to Max’s Kansas City and rubs shoulders with Warhol acolytes, inspiring him to try his hand at painting. Soon enough, he’s replicating 16th-century Flemish portraits, which he sells to antique dealers and galleries. As his exploits grow in value and range, the threat of being caught rises and the FBI draws near. In theory, there’s enough to this story to pique a discerning reader’s interest; on the page, however, Perenyi’s tale unravels with vacuous prose and a lack of self-awareness or genuine insight; he offers little more than rote, blow-by-blow accounts of his scandals. Most interesting is Perenyi’s description of aging and distressing his forgeries so that they might appear authentically weathered. Unfortunately, he never presents the reader with an authentic depiction of the mind of a pathological fraud. Illus. Agent: Don Fehr, Trident Media Group. (Aug.)
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