The Runner: A True Account of the Amazing Adventures and Fantastical Lies of the Ivy League Impostor James Hogue

David Samuels, Author New Press $22.95 (176p) ISBN 978-1-59558-188-4

In this extended riff on Samuels’s New Yorker article of the same name, the author pursues James Hogue, portrayed as a cunning, intelligent drifter who at age 28, in 1988, created a new identity for himself as Alexi Santana, a 16-year-old cowboy, who became the Princeton University admissions committee’s darling. Santana’s Princeton matriculation was delayed because, unbeknownst to school authorities, Hogue was doing time for bicycle theft. One year later, Santana, a talented runner, entered the school without a hitch until a track meet spectator outed the impostor during his sophomore year. Though Samuels has a gift for contextualizing people and events, he misses his mark in this repetitive and fragmented profile. He is so taken by his elusive subject, whom he calls “a convicted fabulist,” that he lets Hogue, a compulsive liar and criminal with repeated offenses, off the hook far too easily. To Samuels, Hogue’s behavior is as harmless as the youthful lies the author formerly told strangers on airplanes. But the lie and the con are not one and the same, and the reader winces as Hogue cons his way past Samuels’s otherwise intelligent grasp. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 01/07/2008
Release date: 04/01/2008
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 176 pages - 978-1-58243-504-6
Open Ebook - 978-1-59558-389-5
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