The Trickster Prince

Matt Houlbrook: mobile historian; beard growing, head shaving; occasional cycling.


Deborah Cohen, author of Family Secrets

‘Con man, royal biographer, tell-all memoirist—Netley Lucas had one more trick up his sleeve. He earned himself a historian who could explain how confidence men changed their era and why modern life itself became a racket. Through back-breaking detective work and an exposition that is both impeccable in its scholarship and playfully imaginative, Houlbrook exposes how Lucas and his ilk exploited the new possibilities of a world reeling from the devastation of World War I. A dazzlingly inventive and exceptionally canny book.’

Laura Doan, author of Disturbing Practices: History, Sexuality, and Women’s Experience of Modern War
‘Houlbrook’s adamant refusal to reduce to a single story the many incarnations of the confidence man Netley Lucas mobilizes historiographical debate as if by stealth. Questioning how and why we read and write history, this account of interwar Britain is like no other. At every turn Prince of Tricksters unravels the strands of one man’s life to unsettle the very possibility of getting the story right. Lively and lucid, the book will appeal not only to scholars but also the general reader.’

Seth Koven, author of The Match Girl and the Heiress

‘Tracking his suave trickster prince Netley Lucas through courtrooms and across continents, Houlbrook shows that the confidence man, every bit as much as the flapper, defined Britain in the aftermath of the Great War. Houlbrook dares you to trust the plausible past that he has meticulously assembled out of Lucas’s many lives and lies. A virtuosic performance:  tender, bracing, and brilliant.’


‘Houlbrook has assembled all the pieces of the fascinating puzzle of Netley Lucas’s life, but when they are fitted together, the picture that emerges is a perfect blank. However, it’s a blank that never ceases to intrigue. . . . Prince of Tricksters is a remarkable work.’

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