The Writing Master reveals, for the first time, the career of a nineteenth-century criminal mastermind, James B. Crosse. New research demonstrates that Crosse committed many crimes under undetected aliases: store break-ins, bank robberies, Wall Street stock forgeries, counterfeiting conspiracies, etc. His career revolved around a female blackmailer who matched his capacity for deceit and cunning, Jane Fleming. For several years, his accomplice was a mixed-race slave, Bob Burwell, whom some observers believed to be craftier than Crosse himself. In many respects, Crosse appears to have modeled himself after the shape-shifting huckster figure of Herman Melville’s The Confidence Man. The Writing Master is a true crime story, introducing readers to a figure as ingenious as the fictional Professor Moriarty and as charming as Raffles the Amateur Cracksman. Along the way, Crosse and Fleming encountered the great detectives who pursued them; colorful rogues and thieves; and historical figures such as President Andrew Johnson and the great villain of the age, John Wilkes Booth.