Chasing Phil: The Adventures of Two Undercover Agents with the World’s Most Charming Con Man

David Howard. Crown, $28 (384p) ISBN 978-1-101-90742-9
Howard (Lost Rights) takes readers back to the start of the FBI’s wire-wearing undercover era in 1976, when two eager young Midwestern agents, operating by the seat of their pants, teamed up to take down a charismatic con man considered the world’s greatest swindler. J.J. Wedick and Jack Brennan used their own names—unthinkable today—to befriend Minnesota-born insurance fraudster Phil Kitzer and become his apprentices, observing financial scams all over the world. Whether stealing the assets of a London bank or Elvis Presley’s private jet, Kitzer and members of his crime syndicate ran a seamless operation without ever getting caught. Over time, Kitzer and the agents developed an enviable friendship that survived the FBI’s Operation Fountain Pen sting in 1977, which landed Kitzer in prison. Howard splendidly recreates a bygone era and immerses readers in memorable scenes—including one in a Bahamas restaurant where Kitzer encouraged all diners to join him in a rousing rendition of “Hello, Dolly!” Following his leads across the globe, the author also traces Kitzer’s criminal evolution and explains how many of the FBI’s current undercover policies and procedures are directly influenced by the Kitzer case. The book contains the essential elements of great true crime: larger-than-life characters and almost unbelievable heists. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/23/2017
Release date: 10/01/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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