For two decades, a Ghanaian con man surfed a wave of lies and luck, living large on multiple continents while swindling “millions upon millions of dollars.”

“This is a story of how lies change history,” writes Ghanaian journalist Yeebo. The lies at the center of her story are those of Dr. John Ackah Blay-Miezah, whose name and title were both lies. He claimed to hold the key to the (nonexistent) Oman Ghana Trust Fund, billions of dollars supposedly spirited out of Ghana by its first president, Kwame Nkrumah, and held in Swiss banks, ensnaring investors in a classic fraud. Yeebo makes clear that Blay-Miezah’s lies were founded on other lies—first those of the British colonizers, who “siphoned off over 150 million pounds” that were to have been held in reserve pending independence, and then those of the U.S. and British governments, which helped engineer the 1966 coup that toppled Nkrumah. The racism that underlay these actions also propelled many of Blay-Miezah’s investors, who “saw [him] spinning a tale about darkest Africa, untold wealth, and a corrupt leader….[T]he story—and the man—fit their preconceptions like a dovetail joint.” The great tragedy, writes the author, is that Blay-Miezah’s lies have become one of Ghana’s foundational myths. It’s an incredible story, told with muscular acerbity and populated by secondary characters as compelling as the leading man. There’s the diplomat duo of Shirley Temple Black, U.S. ambassador to Ghana, and Ebenezer Moses Debrah, Ghana’s former ambassador to the U.S.; Gladys Blay-Miezah, Blay-Miezah’s second wife, whose ability to track down her philandering husband earned her the nickname Columbo; and Joe Appiah, who successfully prosecuted Blay-Miezah in Ghanaian court only to see him freed after a brutal coup. Even as she catches readers up in what often reads like a breathless caper, the author takes care to ground them in what matters most: Ghana and its sadly “fragile” history.

Utterly absorbing.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2023

ISBN: 9781635574739

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2023

Did you like this book?

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 18

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller


A former New York City dancer reflects on her zesty heyday in the 1970s.

Discovered on a Manhattan street in 2020 and introduced on Stanton’s Humans of New York Instagram page, Johnson, then 76, shares her dynamic history as a “fiercely independent” Black burlesque dancer who used the stage name Tanqueray and became a celebrated fixture in midtown adult theaters. “I was the only black girl making white girl money,” she boasts, telling a vibrant story about sex and struggle in a bygone era. Frank and unapologetic, Johnson vividly captures aspects of her former life as a stage seductress shimmying to blues tracks during 18-minute sets or sewing lingerie for plus-sized dancers. Though her work was far from the Broadway shows she dreamed about, it eventually became all about the nightly hustle to simply survive. Her anecdotes are humorous, heartfelt, and supremely captivating, recounted with the passion of a true survivor and the acerbic wit of a weathered, street-wise New Yorker. She shares stories of growing up in an abusive household in Albany in the 1940s, a teenage pregnancy, and prison time for robbery as nonchalantly as she recalls selling rhinestone G-strings to prostitutes to make them sparkle in the headlights of passing cars. Complemented by an array of revealing personal photographs, the narrative alternates between heartfelt nostalgia about the seedier side of Manhattan’s go-go scene and funny quips about her unconventional stage performances. Encounters with a variety of hardworking dancers, drag queens, and pimps, plus an account of the complexities of a first love with a drug-addled hustler, fill out the memoir with personality and candor. With a narrative assist from Stanton, the result is a consistently titillating and often moving story of human struggle as well as an insider glimpse into the days when Times Square was considered the Big Apple’s gloriously unpolished underbelly. The book also includes Yee’s lush watercolor illustrations.

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Did you like this book?

A juicy story with some truly crazy moments, yet Anderson's good heart shines through.


The iconic model tells the story of her eventful life.

According to the acknowledgments, this memoir started as "a fifty-page poem and then grew into hundreds of pages of…more poetry." Readers will be glad that Anderson eventually turned to writing prose, since the well-told anecdotes and memorable character sketches are what make it a page-turner. The poetry (more accurately described as italicized notes-to-self with line breaks) remains strewn liberally through the pages, often summarizing the takeaway or the emotional impact of the events described: "I was / and still am / an exceptionally / easy target. / And, / I'm proud of that." This way of expressing herself is part of who she is, formed partly by her passion for Anaïs Nin and other writers; she is a serious maven of literature and the arts. The narrative gets off to a good start with Anderson’s nostalgic memories of her childhood in coastal Vancouver, raised by very young, very wild, and not very competent parents. Here and throughout the book, the author displays a remarkable lack of anger. She has faced abuse and mistreatment of many kinds over the decades, but she touches on the most appalling passages lightly—though not so lightly you don't feel the torment of the media attention on the events leading up to her divorce from Tommy Lee. Her trip to the pages of Playboy, which involved an escape from a violent fiance and sneaking across the border, is one of many jaw-dropping stories. In one interesting passage, Julian Assange's mother counsels Anderson to desexualize her image in order to be taken more seriously as an activist. She decided that “it was too late to turn back now”—that sexy is an inalienable part of who she is. Throughout her account of this kooky, messed-up, enviable, and often thrilling life, her humility (her sons "are true miracles, considering the gene pool") never fails her.

A juicy story with some truly crazy moments, yet Anderson's good heart shines through.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2023

ISBN: 9780063226562

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

Did you like this book?