Chris Barton’s new book is Can I See Your ID? True Stories of False Identities. Inside are ten fascinating stories of great impostors including a high school dropout who poses as a navy surgeon and a female slave who poses as a white man to escape the south during the Civil War. It’s an amazing book that really gets you inside the head of these fakers, showing motivation, how it all played out and what happened next.
Chris has some answers to a few questions about fakes, posers and writing.
What inspired you to take on the topic of false identities?
The individual stories I was already aware of — such as Frank Abagnale, Keron Thomas, John Howard Griffin, and Riley Weston — were intriguing to me on their own. But I was also curious to see what I’d learn and could convey to readers by digging into a whole bunch of these stories. Would I find that these people, who had such different situations and motivations, had common experiences and emotions? Were there recurring tricks of the trade? I go into that a lot in the book’s afterword.
Is there one of the 10 in the book that’s a favorite, and why?
I’m especially partial to Keron Thomas’ story. When he was 16 years old in 1993, he impersonated a New York City subway motorman and drove the A train for three hours. I got to interview both Keron and Regoberto Sabio, the motorman whose identity he borrowed, and so that story was the one that allowed me to get the closest, I think, to what actually went through the mind of one of these subjects during the masquerade.
Which do you prefer (if you do) writing — fiction or non-fiction?
If I had a clear preference, my career would be a lot more linear. So far, I’ve done a picture book biography, and SHARK VS. TRAIN, and now this YA nonfiction project, and I’ve got another Shark and Train book and another pair of picture book biographies in the works, plus a middle-grade novel that I’m itching to get to. I prefer writing, period.
Thanks to Chris.
To see more of this tour, check out Peter Salomon’s and Jean Reidy’s blogs. In a few days, check out Ruth McNally Barshaw’s page to see action sketches of Chris! And in June 2011, look for more on Jenny Ziegler’s blog.