The gent in the title was a rascally old scoundrel, Cclonel William d'Alton Mann, who blackmailed the rich with his weekly magazine Town Topics. He kept it up for 25 years, but by then the rich were delighted to be worthy of scandal. Colonel Mann's story is sandwiched between his instigation of a court battle between himself and Collier's Weekly, and the battle's outcome. (Part of this book appeared in The New Forker, for which Town Topics was something of a prototype.) Colonel Maun took over the magazine from his brother in the middle '90's., Its content was a hybrid of Confidential and the literary class of The New Yorker. The Colonel edited the scandal up front, and James Huneker conducted the back-of-the-book seminar on the arts. At that time, the pre-Income Tax heyday of the Four Hundred, many were the idle, helplessly rich who would pay the Colonel a fee not to mention their peccadillos. After a life of rugged individualism, carpetbaggery and swindling, the Colonel was a bit dipped in scandal himself, as was revealed by his defeat in court. His story is brightly but not brilliantly told here.