The Professor and the Parson: A Story of Desire, Deceit, and Defrocking

Adam Sisman. Counterpoint, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-1-64009-328-7
This gripping account of a recalcitrant 20th-century con man from National Book Critics Circle Award winner–Sisman (Boswell’s Presumptuous Task) proves the old adage that truth is stranger than fiction. The man born Robert Parkins in England in 1918, who mostly went by Robert Peters, first forged references to get a teaching post in Canada in 1948. In 1958, British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper, who became notorious in the 1970s for being taken in by the fake Hitler diaries, met Peters in Oxford while the latter was a grad student at the university. After Peters asked for his help countering persecution by the bishop of Oxford, Trevor-Roper discovered that Peters’s claim was a fantasy and began digging deeper. The historian’s interest in the scam artist continued for the rest of his life, and Sisman details Peters’s persistent—and successful—attempts to pass himself off as variously an academic, cleric, and school principal. Sisman wisely relegates speculation about what motivated Peters to a brief concluding section, offering appropriate caveats about why Peters sought status via deceit “when it might have been easier to pursue an honest career.” Fans of the film Catch Me If You Can will be entertained. Agent: Andrew Wylie, Wylie Agency. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 12/02/2019
Release date: 02/04/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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