03 January 2015

The Eiffel Tower con

I just finished reading Neil Gaiman's American Gods, in an appendix to which he mentions a con involving selling the Eiffel Tower.  He attributes this to Charles Ponzi, but a quick web search this morning reveals the con was an achievement of a Victor Lustig:
Lustig's master con came to him one spring day when he was reading a newspaper. An article discussed the problems the city was having maintaining the Eiffel Tower. Even keeping it painted was an expensive chore, and the tower was becoming somewhat run down. Lustig saw the possibilities behind this article and developed a remarkable scheme. Lustig had a forger produce fake government stationery for him and invited six scrap metal dealers to a confidential meeting at the Hotel de Crillon, one of the most prestigious of the old Paris hotels, to discuss a possible business deal. All six attended the meeting...
Lustig asked the businessmen to submit sealed bids and hinted that he was open to bribery.  He received both funds and a large bribe, and skipped town.
A month later, Lustig returned to Paris, selected six more scrap dealers, and tried to sell the Tower once more. This time, the chosen victim went to the police and he brought them the counterfeit contract and papers before Lustig could close the deal, but Lustig and Collins managed to evade arrest.
Here are some other snippets from Gaiman's book:
A fragment of nonsense bubbled up from somwwhere in his mind: in medieval days it was said that a woman on top during coitus would conveive a bishop.  That was what they called it: trying for a bishop... (p. 189)

Driving south [in the winter] was like driving forward in time. (377)

"You mustn't be afraid of the dark." 
"I'm not," said Shadow.  "I'm afraid of the people in the dark." (385)

The house smelled musty and damp, and a little sweet, as if it were haunted by the ghosts of long-dead cookies. (487)
And one minor mistake: in an autopsy of a stab-wound victim (176), several wounds are described as being "between the fourth and fifth intercostal spaces" where what is meant is that the wounds would be between the ribs in the space, not between the spaces.

An enjoyable book.  Not a 4+, but an easy 3+.

(pagination references from the paperback Tenth Anniversary "author's preferred text" version.)


  1. Love the "Ten Commandments for Con Men" in the link...

  2. I love hearing when you read books I enjoy! American God's is fun. Not a masterpiece but definitely. Have you read any more David Mitchell? All of his stuff is so unique from one to another. He's such a talent!

    1. No Mitchell recently or pending. Right now I'm working on two nonfiction books - Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language [a history of hereditary deafness on Martha's Vineyard] and Severed [a history of severed heads]. Waiting in the books is my Christmas present -


  3. American Gods was pretty good, but I much prefer Gaiman's book, Neverwhere.


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