Read as part of CBR15Bingo: Africa. This non-fiction story centers around the country of Ghana, which is part of Africa.
I didn’t know much about Ghana before picking this one up. Great soccer squad, often the nemesis of the United States Men’s Team. West African location. I had always assumed that the slave trade had ravaged their country but I didn’t know who were the worst perpetrators (the British, who also robbed them of their gold, though they were not alone w/r/t slavery).
Fortunately, one doesn’t need a working history of the country of Ghana to appreciate this one. Yepoka Yeebo does a great job recounting the rollicking life of John Ackah Blay-Miezah, a con man who duped everyone from his fellow countryfolk to Nixon crony and Watergate convict John Mitchell and many European points in between. Lying about the history of deposed President Kwame Nkrumah, Blay-Miezah spun tales of hidden gold that required investments in order to rebuild Ghana and enrich those involved. The man knew money would block the rationale thought of most men and he was able to get hundreds of millions (perhaps billions) in investments before the con was revealed…and even then, folks still didn’t believe it!
I do think this book is mismarketed a bit. It’s not the author’s fault; this unfortunately tends to happen when publishers want to sell a story. Blay-Miezah certainly conned the west as the subtitle acknowledges. But he was also pretty terrible to folks in his own country, one far less wealthy than the States or the UkK. The author does a great job addressing this; there’s admiration for ripping off a goon like Mitchell but we never get the sense that Blay-Miezah is some sort of Robin Hood. Rather, he benefitted from the corruption of the era to run his con worldwide, exporting a story about his native land that wasn’t true for his own material benefit.
All of this is told in a readable, compelling 302 pages. It’s the kind of narrative non-fiction I enjoy, making it one of my favorite non-fic works of the year.