The extraordinary yet little-known Jazz Age adventures of the flamboyant white American imposter, Edgar Laplante, demonstrate the wisdom of the cliché about truth being stranger than fiction. Part Jay Gatsby, part Tom Ripley, he acquired enormous wealth and international fame during the 1920s.

Laplante’s greatest ‘triumph’ came when he morphed into Chief White Elk, leader of the Cherokee nation. In that guise, he toured America, obtained an audience with King George V, performed in the decadent Parisian cabarets, wooed a couple of glamorous Austrian countesses on the Riviera, and staged a triumphant ‘royal’ tour of fascist Italy, where vast crowds greeted him.

Join Paul Willetts – author of a recent much-praised book about Laplante (King Con, 2018) – for this illustrated Zoom talk, and take a tour through one 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.

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:

[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.]


Date: Thursday 19 Jan 2023. Time: 8pm – 9.30pm (London time)

£5 – £10, & by donation