The True Characters of ‘American Hustle’: Spies, Lies and a Book Giveaway!

Stings, Spies and FBI Agents

[For all you "American Hustle" fans who joined the The Sting Man giveaway*, stay tuned. We'll send you an email shortly if you were one of our lucky winners.]

In the movie "American Hustle," Christian Bale plays Melvin Weinberg, an inveterate conman who got his start selling backless jackets and footless socks. Weinberg went on to amass a fortune bilking investors before being recruited by the FBI to participate in an elaborate sting operation, a set-up that would come to be known as Abscam. Weinberg posed as an Arab sheik looking for favors and dubious investments; once the bad guys, including seven congressmen and one U.S. senator, agreed to his shady deas, the Feds burst in with the cuffs. The real Weinberg lives in Florida and enjoys talking about his glory days -- and reading about other informants and the agents they worked for. To learn more about the story of Weinberg, Abscam, and what life is like in the FBI, check out these memoirs.

The Sting Man by Robert W. Greene

Here’s the true story of Weinberg’s life on both sides of the law. Born in the Bronx, he got his start in crime on the West Coast, but soon returned to New York, where he moved from small-time hustles to major cons. He didn’t just fool investors; he also managed to convince three women to share his life (setting up his two mistresses in identical apartments) and charmed the Feds into letting him work for them rather than face jail time for his crimes.

Spy by David Wise

Sometimes, as in the case of Mel Weinberg, an outsider comes to work for the Bureau and everyone wins. Other times, as in the case of Robert Hanssen, an insider goes to work for the enemy, and everyone loses. Hanssen spent more than two decades spying for the Russians while working as an FBI agent, while at the same time betraying other Russians spying in the FBI, and directing an operation to hunt down a KGB mole. In this biography, Wise describes the bizarre, twisted life of Hanssen, and how he was able to mastermind one of the worst disasters of U.S. intelligence to date.

Enemies by Tim Weiner

For many of us, the FBI simply means the folks who show up at investigations when the local cops are in over their heads. But while it’s true the Bureau acts as "America’s police force," their first and foremost job, Weiner writes, is in secret intelligence. In this history of the famous men of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, and the politicians they worked with (and sometimes against), Weiner describes a secretive, powerful agency that has helped shape our country more than most of us realize.

FBI Girl by Maura Conlon-McIvor

In J. Edgar Hoover’s heyday, the FBI was at its most powerful, and most secretive. Imagine, then, growing up in a house where Hoover’s picture is on the wall, the trunk of your father’s car is filled with bullets, and he refuses to say a word about his job as an agent with the Bureau. Such was the childhood of Conlon-McIver, whose fascination -- and frustration -- with her FBI agent father led her to train to become an agent herself. In this memoir, she writes about who the G-men were when they came home from work, and what it was like growing up the daughter of one.

Most Wanted by Thomas J. Foley

When Boston mobster Whitey Bulger was brought to justice, he didn't go alone -- he took with him FBI agent John Connolly, whose protection of Bulger won him a forty-year prison sentence. For years, while Bulger was on the FBI Most Wanted list for murder and other crimes, the FBI was actually protecting him in return for information. During this time, Bulger continued to go on bloody crime sprees, and was doggedly pursued by Massachusetts state cop Thomas Foley. In this book, Foley writes of his years on Bulger’s trail, and the disillusionment he felt when he discovered the agents he revered were in fact shielding Bulger from being captured.

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