Over the past 250 years, so many Americans with both European and African heritage have pretended to be Native American that real Native Americans have started jokily referring to them as members of the “Wannabe” tribe. Prominent among this parade of the roguish and the delusional are the famous conservationist, Grey Owl; the ethnographer, Red Thunder Cloud; the civil rights campaigner, Chief Red Fox; the movie actor, Iron Eyes Cody; as well as the conman and Jazz Age darling of the Italian fascist party, Edgar Laplante.

Join Paul Willetts – author of a recent much-praised book about Laplante (King Con, 2018) – for this illustrated Zoom talk, focusing on some of the twentieth-century’s weirdest stories.

“A story so bizarre—and compulsively told—that my jaw remained anchored to the floor throughout”—John Preston, author of A Very English Scandal and The Dig

“This Jazz Age imposter’s life makes for quite a story, and in ‘King Con’, Paul Willetts knows just how to tell it”The Washington Post


Paul Willetts is the author of five acclaimed non-fiction books. His biography of the Soho smut impresario, Paul Raymond, was turned into the movie, The Look of Love, starring Steve Coogan, who described Paul’s book as “a thoroughly entertaining story, told by a writer with a vivid and amusing turn of phrase.” His work has also attracted praise from a wide range of other people, including Edgar Wright, Jonathan Meades, and Richard Holmes. For further info see: https://paulwilletts.com

Your host for this event will be the writer Edward Parnell, author of Ghostland: In Search of a Haunted Country. Edward Parnell lives in Norfolk and has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. He is the recipient of an Escalator Award from the National Centre for Writing and a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship. Ghostland (William Collins, 2019), a work of narrative non-fiction, is a moving exploration of what has haunted our writers and artists – as well as the author’s own haunted past; it was shortlisted for the PEN Ackerley 2020 prize, an award given to a literary autobiography of excellence. Edward’s first novel The Listeners (2014), won the Rethink New Novels Prize. For further info see: https://edwardparnell.com


[Portrait of Edgar Laplante, a.k.a. Chief White Elk, taken in Bremerton, Washington State, February 1921. Photo courtest of the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.]