In the first full biography of the notorious con man Soapy Smith in more than forty years, Alaskan historian Jane Haigh chronicles the rise to power of a man without a conscience. Starting as a street corner shell game artist, Jefferson Randolph “Soapy” Smith rose to power as a gang leader in Denver, then chose raw, lawless Skagway as his headquarters to fleece the thousands of tenderfeet heading for the Klondike Gold Rush in 1897. Less than a year later he was dead, killed in a vigilante shootout on the Skagway wharf.
Well spoken and charming, Soapy could have been a businessman, minister, politician lawyer, or judge, but he chose to use his talents as a confidence man. In Skagway he gathered shills and toughs from around the West and commanding his gang as a colonel might command a battalion, he constructed an empire that any Mafia don might envy. King Con documents Soapy’s life from his infamy as a Denver crook and gang leader and his take over of early Creed, Colorado, to the fake businesses, rigged card games, and brutal murders that marked his year of dominance in Gold Rush Skagway. This fascinating biography is illustrated with period photographs that show Soapy and his gang from their glory days to his autopsy in 1898.