Whipping Boy: The Forty-Year Search for My Twelve-Year-Old Bully

Allen Kurzweil. HarperCollins, $27.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-226948-5
Childhood trauma fuels an adult obsession and an exploration of a flamboyant criminal caper in this rollicking but unfocused memoir. Novelist Kurzweil (A Case of Curiosities) was bullied by a roommate named Cesar Augustus at a tiny Swiss boarding school—being whipped with a belt is the worst outrage—and later in life set out to learn what had become of his tormentor. He discovered after many years that Cesar had gone to prison for his involvement in investment fraud. Cesar is a marginal figure through much of the book, and when we finally meet him, his impact is underwhelming; he comes off as an evasive and self-deluding hollow man with a repertoire of pathetic shady business ventures. But Kurzweil crafts an entertaining, sharply reported picaresque centering on the colorful leaders of the scam, who bamboozled their marks by posing as monocled European aristocrats and produced a fake deed from the fictional King of Mombessa, and on the investigators who caught them. The psychodrama between Kurzweil and Cesar doesn’t have much emotional payoff, but it makes a serviceable hook for a comic-opera true crime saga that’s ripe with hilarious humbuggery. Photos. Agent: Liz Darhansoff, Darhansoff & Verrill. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 12/08/2014
Release date: 01/01/2015
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 320 pages - 978-0-06-226950-8
Audio Product - 978-0-06-230857-3
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-06-226949-2
Compact Disc - 978-1-4815-3254-9
Compact Disc - 978-1-4815-3255-6
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Audio book sample courtesy of HarperAudio
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