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The Queen

The gripping true tale of a villain who changed history
  • Author
    • Josh Levin
Regular price £12.99
Regular price Sale price £12.99

'The Queen is an invaluable work of non-fiction' - David Grann, Sunday Times and New York Times bestselling author of Killers of the Flower Moon

This is the gripping true tale of a villain who changed American history.

In the 1970s, Linda Taylor became a fur-wearing, Cadillac-driving symbol of the undeserving poor - the original 'welfare queen'. In the press she was the ultimate template for this insidious stereotype; Ronald Reagan himself cited her criminal behaviour in his presidential campaign, turning public opinion firmly against state benefits and those who used them.

But Taylor was demonized for the least of her crimes. She was a con artist, a thief, a kidnapper, maybe even a murderer - and certainly one of the most gifted and deranged criminals of modern times.

The Queen is the never-before-told story of a beguilingly complex American character, lost in the rush to create a vicious stereotype.

'Anyone who knew welfare knew, I thought, that the welfare queen is a myth. Turns out she isn't' - Jamie Fisher, TLS

'Levin's brilliant exploration of the politics of welfare reform teaches an essential lesson. Where myths and stereotypes predominate, facts, logic and evidence lose out . . . Levin's story calls upon us to think harder. Gripping' Washington Post
  • Published: Feb 06 2020
  • Pages: 448
  • 196 x 128mm
  • ISBN: 9781472266088
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Press Reviews

  • Brendan I. Koerner, author of The Skies Belong to Us
    It is impossible to read The Queen without pausing every few pages to marvel at either the brilliance of Josh Levin's research or the sheer wildness of the tale. By pouring years of devotion into piecing together Linda Taylor's bizarre criminal odyssey, Levin has created a work of American history like no other - an enthralling portrait of a nation whose splendid promise has too often been distorted by prejudice and political cynicism
  • Attica Locke, author of Black Water Rising
    The Queen is a wild, only-in-America story that helped me understand my country better. It's a fascinating portrait of a con artist and a nation . . . and the ways the United States continually relies on oversimplified narratives about race and class to shape public policy, almost always at the expense of brown people and poor people
  • David Grann, author of Killers of the Flower Moon
    In the finest tradition of investigative reporting, Josh Levin exposes how a story that once shaped the nation's conscience was clouded by racism and lies. As he stunningly reveals, the deeper truth, the messy truth, tells us something much larger about who we are. The Queen is an invaluable work of nonfiction
  • Wesley Lowery, author of They Can't Kill Us All
    For decades, Linda Taylor has been demagogued by politicians and the press, reduced to a cruel stereotype: the welfare queen shamelessly leeching from government coffers. Through meticulous reporting, Josh Levin's The Queen illuminates in full the story of a life far more complicated, cunning, criminal, tragic and fascinating than the historical stereotype would have ever allowed us to see
  • Connie Fletcher

    A stunning account ... His powerful work of narrative nonfiction shows how Taylor victimized a slew of vulnerable people, was a victim herself, and was the cause of Black welfare recipients being stereotyped as "welfare cheats." ... Levin does a terrific job of balancing his portrait of a criminal, of the racism of police ... and of the widespread stereotyping of Blacks that grew out of her crimes and a president's distortions.
  • Kirkus
    Levin nimbly explores Taylor's life in a story that becomes more complex the more it's revealed. The tale encompasses an astonishingly prolific criminal career as well as issues of race ... mental illness. amd self-invention, to say nothing of politics and the essentialism that Regan commonly practised ... A top-notch study of an exceedingly odd moment in history.
  • The New York Times Book Review
    Another author would have used the 'welfare queen' as a jumping-off point to explore stereotypes, welfare politics and political rhetoric. Levin addresses all that, but his real goal is to put a face to Reagan's bogeywoman, tracking every alias, every scam, every duped husband and every dodged arrest. He presents Linda Taylor not as a parable for anything grand, but as a singular American scoundrel who represented nothing but herself... Part of the fun of Levin's book is burrowing inside his obsessive quest
  • Lisbeth B. Schorr

    Washington Post
    Levin's brilliant exploration of the politics of welfare reform teaches an essential lesson. When myths and stereotypes predominate, facts, logic and evidence lose out . . . Levin's story calls upon us to think harder. Gripping.