Apartment 6-E, at 211 West Twentieth Street, in Chelsea, was a twenty-five-hundred-square-foot loft with two bedrooms, two baths, high ceilings, broad windows, and a fireplace. When its owner listed it on Craigslist, the response was overwhelming: dozens of people from all over the world wanted to sublet it. “They couldn’t all rent the apartment, of course,” Tad Friend writes, in “Crowded House,” from 2013. “Unless they could!” Thus began an extraordinary New York City scam: a summer sublet with room for everyone.

This week, we’re bringing you stories about grifts, cons, and rackets—and about the circumstances that led eventually to their unmasking. In addition to “Crowded House,” you’ll find Patrick Radden Keefe on a suspiciously good wine collector (“How could one collector find so much rare fine wine?”) and Mark Singer on a pianist whose recordings were incredible, in both senses of the word (“How was it that anyone . . . could record such a splendid and voluminous body of work?”). In “The Chameleon,” David Grann explores the life of a con man who specialized, against all logic, in the impersonation of children; in “The Plagiarist’s Tale,” Lizzie Widdicombe profiles a best-selling author who braided others’ books together to create his own. Finally, in “Pedigree,” Walter Kirn explains how he fell victim to “a German immigrant of many aliases” who pretended to be Clark Rockefeller, a “freelance central banker” and member of the Rockefeller family. Like the other stories in this collection, it’s a saga of “credulity, wishful thinking, and self-deception”—and, in the end, of revelation.

—David Remnick


“Crowded House”

“He had brought in roommates over the years to help with the rent. It now occurred to him that it might be easier and more profitable to collect payments without the bother of actual roommates.” Read more.


“The Jefferson Bottles”

“The extraordinary inflation of rare-wine prices—of which the Jefferson bottles are the most conspicuous example—has led in recent years to an explosion of counterfeits in the wine trade.” Read more.


“The Plagiarist’s Tale”

“Like a spy hiding in plain sight, “Assassin of Secrets” appeared to be a bizarre aberration: an homage to Bond that plagiarized Bond.” Read more.


“The Chameleon”

“Over the years, he had insinuated himself into youth shelters, orphanages, foster homes, junior high schools, and children’s hospitals.” Read more.


“Fantasia for Piano”

“The alchemy that transformed Joyce Hatto into ‘Joyce Hatto’ was, in its twisted way, a tour de force, a dazzling work of art, literally the performance of a lifetime.” Read more.


“Pedigree”

“A few months after the alleged crime, he fled to the East Coast, where he eluded investigators for decades by adopting and shedding new identities, including the one that proved most lasting: Clark Rockefeller, dog-lover, central banker for hire.” Read more.