SCOUNDREL by Sarah Weinman, available February 22, 2022
How a convicted murderer persuaded the women who loved him, the conservative establishment and the courts to set him free
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.
SARAH WEINMAN is the author of The Real Lolita: A Lost Girl, an Unspeakable Crime, and a Scandalous Masterpiece, which was named aBest Book of 2018 by NPR, BuzzFeed, The National Post, Literary Hub, The San Francisco Chronicle and Vulture, and won the Arthur Ellis Award for Excellence in Crime Writing. Weinman writes the twice-monthly Crime column for the New York Times Book Review, and her journalism has most recently appeared in New York, The Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, The Washington Post and AirMail. Weinman lives in New York City.
By Sarah Weinman
February 22, 2022
Hardcover | 472 pages Knopf Canada
True Crime – Murder; Biography & Autobiography – Criminals & Outlaws; True Crime – Con Artists, Hoaxes & Deceptions
We would like to thank Danielle LeSage Senior Publicist Penguin Random House Canada for the press release.