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A true-crime masterpiece, this is a story of wrongful exoneration about killer Edgar Smith and the prominent crusaders who fell prey to his charm.

Having spent almost half his lifetime in California's state penitentiary system, convicted killer Edgar Smith died in obscurity in 2017 at the age of eighty-three—a miracle, really, as he was meant to be executed nearly six decades earlier. Tried and convicted in the state of New Jersey for the 1957 murder of fifteen-year-old Victoria Zielinski, Smith was once the most famous convict in America.
    Scoundrel tells the true, almost-too-bizarre story of a man saved from Death Row by way of an unlikely friendship—developed in nearly 2000 pages of prison correspondence—with National Review founder William F. Buckley, Jr., one of the most famous figures in the neo-conservative movement. Buckley wrote articles, fundraised and hired lawyers to fight for a new trial, eventually enlisting the help of Sophie Wilkins, a book editor with whom Smith would have a torrid epistolary affair. As a result of these friends' advocacy, Smith not only gained his freedom, he vaulted to the highest intellectual echelons as a bestselling author, an expert on prison reform, and a minor celebrity—only to fall, spectacularly, back to earth, when his murderous impulses once more prevailed.
     Weinman's Scoundrel is a gripping investigation into a case where crime and culture intersect, where recent memory begins to slide into history and where the darkest of violent impulses meet literary ambition, human ego and hunger for fame.