The Runner

A True Account of the Amazing Lies and Fantastical Adventures of the Ivy League Impostor James Hogue

A classic American story of a homeless drifter who starts a new life by making up a fake identity and gaining admission to Princeton University, based on the acclaimed New Yorker article

“Hogue, for all his deceptions, was genuinely an elite runner . . . and Samuels is an elite narrative journalist, a master at teasing out the social and moral implications of the smallest small talk, of the way people turn their heads or slide into non sequitur as they try to explain themselves.” —Keith Gessen, The New York Times Book Review

On the morning of March 30, 1988, a police detective named Matt Jacobson arrived at a storage facility in St. George, Utah, with a warrant to search for stolen bicycles. Among the stolen goods and dusty athletic trophies in Locker 100, Jacobson also found some recent correspondence showing that the thief, James Hogue, had been dreaming of a new and better life as a person named Alexi Santana—a self-educated Nevada cowboy who could run a mile in just over four minutes and had applied for admission to some of America’s finest universities, including Stanford, Princeton, and Brown.

Thus began a classic American narrative of self-invention that falls somewhere between The Great Gatsby and The Talented Mr. Ripley. Hogue’s story—how he fooled the Princeton University admissions department, got straight A’s, made the Princeton track team, and was accepted into the elite Ivy Club before his deception was finally exposed—turns out to be both an intensely affecting profile of a dreamer and the limits of his dream, and a striking indictment of the Ivy League “meritocracy” to which Hogue wanted so badly to belong.

Taking off from his widely read New Yorker article, David Samuels adds substantial new reporting, telling the sad story of Hogue’s itinerant life after he was expelled from Princeton and providing fascinating new insights into the Ivy League’s most famous impostor.

Praise

“A dizzying, exhilarating tale of deception, duplicity and the search for personal identity.”
Kirkus Reviews

Books by David Samuels