Scoundrel: How a Convicted Murderer Persuaded the Women Who Loved Him, the Conservative Establishment, and the Courts To Set Him Free

Ecco. Feb. 2022. 464p. ISBN 9780062899767. $28.99. CRIME
With this enthralling book, Weinman (The Real Lolita) details the twisted, extraordinary story of a murderer who manipulated his way to freedom and fame. In the 1960s, Edgar Smith, on death row for the murder of teenager Victoria Zielinski, began corresponding with William F. Buckley, the prominent conservative who founded the National Review. Weinman contends that Buckley’s advocacy and friendship helped Smith to get a book deal, a release from prison, and a welcoming reception from the public. Weinman thoroughly covers Smith’s deception and his eventual return to crime. She writes with empathy for Smith’s victims, including those left in the wake of his lies, and a critical eye toward the systems that allowed him to continue committing offenses. The book is a must-read for true crime fans, but it will appeal to nonfiction readers across genres for its thrilling blend of crime, media, and politics in mid-century America. Readers looking for similarly page-turning true crime may be interested in Rebecca Rosenberg and Selim Algar’s At Any Cost: A Father’s Betrayal, a Wife’s Murder, and a Ten-Year War for Justice.
VERDICT An immediately absorbing story of crime, manipulation, and influence.
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