About The Santa Claus Man: The Rise and Fall of a Jazz Age Con Man and the Invention of Christmas in New York
- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Lyons Press (October 1, 2015)
Miracle on 34th Street meets The Wolf of Wall Street in this true crime adventure, set in New York City in the Roaring Twenties.
Before the charismatic John Duval Gluck, Jr. came along, letters from New York City children to Santa Claus were destroyed, unopened, by the U.S. Post Office Department. Gluck saw an opportunity, and created the Santa Claus Association. The effort delighted the public, and for 15 years money and gifts flowed to the only group authorized to answer Santa’s mail. Gluck became a Jazz Age celebrity, rubbing shoulders with the era’s movie stars and politicians, and even planned to erect a vast Santa Claus monument in the center of Manhattan — until Gotham’s crusading charity commissioner discovered some dark secrets in Santa’s workshop.
The rise and fall of the Santa Claus Association is a caper both heartwarming and hardboiled, involving stolen art, phony Boy Scouts, a kidnapping, pursuit by the FBI, a Coney Island bullfight, and above all, the thrills and dangers of a wild imagination. It’s also the larger story of how Christmas became the extravagant holiday we celebrate today, from Santa’s early beginnings in New York to the country’s first citywide tree lighting to Macy’s first grand holiday parade. The Santa Claus Man is a holiday tale with a dark underbelly, and an essential read for lovers of Christmas stories, true crime, and New York City history.
Other holiday highlights found in The Santa Clause Man:
- The secret history of Santa letters, including a trove of original Santa letters and previously unpublished correspondences between the post office and charity groups arguing whether Santa’s mail should be answered.
- The surprising origins of Christmas as we celebrate it today. From “Twas the Night Before Christmas” to the image of Santa Claus popularized by Coca-Cola, this book outlines how modern Christmas came to be, and includes a standalone timeline of holiday milestones.
- The rise of modern-day charity— and charity fraud. Unchecked giving exploded after the First World War and this book follows this growth, as well as some of the most egregious exploiters of the country’s goodwill (including the Santa Claus Man himself), and how they were finally exposed.
- Dozens of original vintage holiday photos, including a sculpture of Santa Claus made of 5,000 pulped letters to Santa, and a detailed sketch of a proposed Santa Claus Building, planned but never built in midtown Manhattan.
“Highly readable” — Publishers Weekly
“Required reading” — New York Post
“A rich, sensational story of holiday spirit corrupted by audacity and greed, fueled by the media at the dawning of the Jazz Age.”— Greg Young, cohost of Bowery Boys NYC history podcast
“A Christmas pudding of a book, studded with historical nuggets and spiced with larceny.”— Gerard Helferich, author of Theodore Roosevelt and the Assassin
The Santa Claus Man was featured in this New York Times post entitled “Mama Says That Santa Claus Does Not Come to Poor People“
Buy, read, and discuss The Santa Claus Man
Author Alex Palmer has written for Slate, Vulture, Smithsonian Magazine, New York Daily News and many other outlets. The author of previous nonfiction books Weird-o-Pedia and Literary Miscellany, he is also the great-grandnephew of John Duval Gluck, Jr.
Connect with Alex
Special blog tour Christmas gift:
Get a free Santa bookplate signed by the author, plus two vintage Santa Claus Association holiday seals. Just email proof once you buy The Santa Claus Man (online receipt, photo of bookstore receipt, etc.) along with the mailing address where you’d like the gift sent to santaclausmanbook[at]gmail[dot]com. Email before 12/21 to guarantee delivery by Christmas.
Monday, November 30th: A Chick Who Reads – Excerpt 1
Tuesday, December 1st: Time 2 Read – Excerpt 2
Wednesday, December 2nd: Life by Kristen – review
Thursday, December 3rd: Bibliotica – spotlight
Friday, December 4th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen – Excerpt 3
Monday, December 7th: No More Grumpy Bookseller – author guest post
Tuesday, December 8th: BookBub – “7 True Holiday Tales to Put You in the Christmas Spirit”
Wednesday, December 9th: From the TBR Pile – Excerpt 4
Wednesday, December 9th: Buried Under Books – author guest post
Thursday, December 10th: Books on the Table – review and guest post
Thursday, December 10th: Broken Teepee – spotlight
Friday, December 11th: A Literary Vacation – author Q&A
Monday, December 14th: Musings of a Bookish Kitty – review
Tuesday, December 15th: Mom in Love with Fiction – Excerpt 5
Thursday, December 17th: Open Book Society – review
Thursday, December 17th: BookNAround – review
Friday, December 18th: Dreams, Etc. – review
Thursday, December 24th: FictionZeal – spotlight