The Man in the Rockefeller Suit
By Mark Seal
(Viking, 336 pages, $27)
Assuming the alias “Clark Rockefeller,” German immigrant Christian Gerhartsreiter infiltrated America’s well-heeled communities (beginning with San Marino) before being exposed as a fraud, a kidnapper, and possibly a murderer. Mark Seal has expanded his 2009 Vanity Fair article into a captivating book. More interesting than Seal’s psychological assessment of the accused is his portrayal of the victims, whose desire to rub elbows with the rich and famous warrants its own study. Gerharts-reiter’s L.A. murder trial is ongoing, leaving room for a sequel.
Author Spotlight: Mark Seal
What motivated the author and Vanity Fair contributor to spend the past two years retracing Clark Rockefeller’s steps, beginning in Germany? “Curiosity. I thought, ‘How can he do this? How could an immigrant come to America with nothing, invent a series of incredible personas, each one more outrageous than the last, and have everybody not only believe him but want to be with him?’ I’d like to think I would have seen through him, but I probably would have been as fooled as anybody.”