Prince Of Tricksters: The Incredible True Story Of Netley Lucas, Gentleman Crook

Hardcover | July 26, 2016

byMatt Houlbrook

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Meet Netley Lucas, Prince of Tricksters—royal biographer, best-selling crime writer, and gentleman crook. In the years after the Great War, Lucas becomes infamous for climbing the British social ladder by his expert trickery—his changing names and telling of tales. An impudent young playboy and a confessed confidence trickster, he finances his far-flung hedonism through fraud and false pretenses. After repeated spells in prison, Lucas transforms himself into a confessing “ex-crook,” turning his inside knowledge of the underworld into a lucrative career as freelance journalist and crime expert. But then he’s found out again—exposed and disgraced for faking an exclusive about a murder case. So he reinvents himself, taking a new name and embarking on a prolific, if short-lived, career as a royal biographer and publisher. Chased around the world by detectives and journalists after yet another sensational scandal, the gentleman crook dies as spectacularly as he lived—a washed-up alcoholic, asphyxiated in a fire of his own making.

The lives of Netley Lucas are as flamboyant as they are unlikely. In Prince of Tricksters, Matt Houlbrook picks up the threads of Lucas’s colorful lies and lives. Interweaving crime writing and court records, letters and life-writing, Houlbrook tells Lucas’s fascinating story and, in the process, provides a panoramic view of the 1920s and ’30s. In the restless times after the Great War, the gentlemanly trickster was an exemplary figure, whose tall tales and bogus biographies exposed the everyday difficulties of knowing who and what to trust. Tracing how Lucas both evoked and unsettled the world through which he moved, Houlbrook shows how he prompted a pervasive crisis of confidence that encompassed British society, culture, and politics.

Taking readers on a romp through Britain, North America, and eventually into Africa, Houlbrook confronts readers with the limits of our knowledge of the past and challenges us to think anew about what history is and how it might be made differently.

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From the Publisher

Meet Netley Lucas, Prince of Tricksters—royal biographer, best-selling crime writer, and gentleman crook. In the years after the Great War, Lucas becomes infamous for climbing the British social ladder by his expert trickery—his changing names and telling of tales. An impudent young playboy and a confessed confidence trickster, he fina...

Matt Houlbrook is professor of cultural history at the University of Birmingham. He is the author of Queer London: Perils and Pleasures in the Sexual Metropolis, 1918–1957, also published by the University of Chicago Press. He lives in Birmingham, United Kingdom.

other books by Matt Houlbrook

Format:HardcoverDimensions:448 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.4 inPublished:July 26, 2016Publisher:University of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022613315X

ISBN - 13:9780226133157

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
List of Abbreviations
Gambit

Part 1 Telling Stories: Crime and Confidence after the Great War

Chapter 1 The Aristocrat of Crooks
Chapter 2 A Curious Kink in the Character

Part 2 Selling Selves: Ghosts and Life Stories

Chapter 3 The Ex-crook Who Has Now Taken Up the Pen
Chapter 4 The Comic Book Criminologist
Chapter 5 Ghosts and Their Doings

Part 3 Bogus Biographies: Literary Scandal and the Politics of Culture

Chapter 6 Writing Royal Lives
Chapter 7 The Courtier and the Con Man
Chapter 8 Stunts and Scandals

Part 4 Denouement

Chapter 9 My Selves

Cooling Out: Has the World Changed, or Have I Changed?

Notes
Index

Editorial Reviews

“Tracking his suave trickster prince Netley Lucas through courtrooms and across continents, Houlbrook shows that the confidence man, every bit as much as the flapper, defined Britain in the aftermath of the Great War. Houlbrook dares you to trust the plausible past that he has meticulously assembled out of Lucas’s many lives and lies. A virtuosic performance:  tender, bracing, and brilliant.”