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Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade

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In the summer of 1998, Walter Kirn--then a young novelist struggling with fatherhood and a dissolving marriage--set out on a peculiar, fateful errand: to personally deliver a crippled hunting dog from an animal shelter in Montana to the New York apartment of one Clark Rockefeller, a secretive young banker and art collector. Thus began a fifteen-year relationship that drew In the summer of 1998, Walter Kirn--then a young novelist struggling with fatherhood and a dissolving marriage--set out on a peculiar, fateful errand: to personally deliver a crippled hunting dog from an animal shelter in Montana to the New York apartment of one Clark Rockefeller, a secretive young banker and art collector. Thus began a fifteen-year relationship that drew Kirn deep into the fun-house world of an outlandish, eccentric son of privilege who, one day, would be shockingly unmasked as a brazen serial impostor and brutal double-murderer. Kirn's one-of-a-kind story, already excerpted in The New Yorker, of being duped by a real-life Mr. Ripley, takes us on a bizarre and haunting journey from the posh private club rooms of Manhattan to the hard-boiled courtrooms and prisons of Los Angeles. In Blood Will Out, Kirn lays bare a Dreiseresque tale of class, self-invention, and the great American con.


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In the summer of 1998, Walter Kirn--then a young novelist struggling with fatherhood and a dissolving marriage--set out on a peculiar, fateful errand: to personally deliver a crippled hunting dog from an animal shelter in Montana to the New York apartment of one Clark Rockefeller, a secretive young banker and art collector. Thus began a fifteen-year relationship that drew In the summer of 1998, Walter Kirn--then a young novelist struggling with fatherhood and a dissolving marriage--set out on a peculiar, fateful errand: to personally deliver a crippled hunting dog from an animal shelter in Montana to the New York apartment of one Clark Rockefeller, a secretive young banker and art collector. Thus began a fifteen-year relationship that drew Kirn deep into the fun-house world of an outlandish, eccentric son of privilege who, one day, would be shockingly unmasked as a brazen serial impostor and brutal double-murderer. Kirn's one-of-a-kind story, already excerpted in The New Yorker, of being duped by a real-life Mr. Ripley, takes us on a bizarre and haunting journey from the posh private club rooms of Manhattan to the hard-boiled courtrooms and prisons of Los Angeles. In Blood Will Out, Kirn lays bare a Dreiseresque tale of class, self-invention, and the great American con.

30 review for Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    ” We all understand that you can’t predict the future, but getting to know an old friend, however perversely, through his murder trial, reveals a truth less commonly acknowledged: you can’t predict the past. It can change at any time.” “Clark Rockefeller” crippled dog lover, kidnapper, art lover, murderer. A dog getting crushed by a car can change a life. When that dog is saved from death by well meaning, though in my opinion people in need of priority realignment, and fitted for a doggie ” We all understand that you can’t predict the future, but getting to know an old friend, however perversely, through his murder trial, reveals a truth less commonly acknowledged: you can’t predict the past. It can change at any time.” “Clark Rockefeller” crippled dog lover, kidnapper, art lover, murderer. A dog getting crushed by a car can change a life. When that dog is saved from death by well meaning, though in my opinion people in need of priority realignment, and fitted for a doggie wheelchair Walter Kirn’s life is about to take a turn towards the Twilight Zone. He is a writer needing a new idea for a book. When Clark Rockefeller wants to adopt the dog, Kirn friends of the well meaning animal lovers, offers to drive the dog across country and deliver it to the new owner. The dog’s spine has been crushed and she has no control over her bladder so I can only imagine the eye watering toxic levels of ammonia that were building up in the cab of that pickup. Kirn changes tactics, but still what a bloody nightmare of a trip. Clark Rockefeller, it is unclear to Kirn what branch of the fabled Rockefeller family he is descended from, but he talks about private jets, priceless paintings that he lets his dog’s lick, having George W. Bush’s phone number, and host of monologues about fantastical ideas. ”We both understood the terms of our friendship. He would delight me with comic songs and dog menus and access to a circle I’d thought closed to me, and I would repay him with the indulgent loyalty that writers reserve for their favorite characters, the ones, it’s said, we can’t make up.” They become friends and Kirn decides that he won’t write about him mainly because he didn’t want to put a strain on a relationship he thought would have him mixing with the famous and the rich. He might even become more popular than he was for a brief stint in college when he was working a personae involving wearing a raincoat year around. ”I was approachable for an angry loner. As the approaches grew more frequent, I wasn’t even that angry anymore: the ugly raincoat just made it seem that way. The fact was that I yearned to ditch the thing--it bored me--but by then it was part of my brooding-playwright image, which was bringing me success with girls, especially the girls that I liked best: rich ones who’d spent years in therapy and treated sex as naked theater.” One thing that will either annoy you about this book or endear the writer to you is his self-deprecating manner all through the book. I felt a healthy dose of both, but as the book progressed I ended up feeling more grudging respect than annoyance. I mean the raincoat gig was pathetic and when I was in college there were guys in the English department, shaky in confidence, who were always trying to discover some look that would make them seem cool. English department girls seemed to like a mixture of rebellion with a dose of strange; and of course, you had to know your literature. Maggie McGuane, when you marry little girls you can’t expect them to be something more than what they are. Kirn married Maggie McGuane now that last name might be familiar to some readers. She is the daughter of Thomas McGuane. When I was in college he and his buddy Jim Harrison were starting to show up on some lists for class readings. I gelled with him and he was the first writer I really started seriously to collect. I’ve been curious for a while about reading him again. I’d like to see how those early novels play in my head now. Maggie is a model and photographer and frankly just too damn young for a guy like Kirn. If anything Kirn needs an older woman, a woman who has been around the block and can mother him, structure him. . Instead he takes Ritalin like a normal person uses aspirin. ”In my glove compartment was a loaded pistol--a macho secret that bred a rugged attitude--and in my jeans was a bottle of Ritalin, a drug that I sometimes used when writing on deadline. When the pills hit my bloodstream I felt brisk and competent, a hard-boiled reporter in an old movie, but once they wore off I grew touchy and distracted. The only antidote was another pill, dissolved in a can of soda for faster action. I built up quite a tolerance this way, for both Ritalin and Dr. Pepper.” He should have been an actor. They always want to be someone else. A few of the many faces of Christian Gerhartsreiker each with its own name and identity. As proud as he is of his new found connection with the Rockefeller family it turns out there is only one problem with the relationship. Clark isn’t a Rockefeller. In fact, he isn’t even an American. His name is Christian Gerhartsreiker and he was born in Bavaria Germany. He has a long history of using pseudonyms and building up personas. They are all really just test runs for his biggest con, convincing people he is a Rockefeller. Now being a con man is being one thing, but being a murderer is quite another. As the dominoes continue to fall and Kirn realizes that everything he knows about his “friend” is a lie. ”He was a cannibal of souls.” It is hard for me to believe that Kirn didn’t see through some of the stories. Many of them he could have driven a Mac truck through and still have room to pull a skyscraper through behind him. Kirn has a history of building his own personas and I do wonder if he wasn’t blinded in a childlike manner by the scope of the con he was seeing. Clark wasn’t just trying to get laid. He was trying to take the world piece by piece. ”Did I have a brain back then? I believed I did. I believed it was quite a developed brain, in fact. It had studied at Princeton and oxford and had written novels. It had jigsawed together raw copy from far-flung stringers to fashion respectable cover stories for Time. So why did it fail me? For the last time, why? Christian Gerharstreiker, or whatever his name is, had an interesting defense at his trial. ”He was too brilliant, too slippery, too shrewd. He was the type that get away with murder, not the type that got charged with it. If Clark had slain John Sohus, we wouldn’t be here, and Clark most certainly wouldn’t be here. Yet here he was There must be some mistake.” He was so smart he got 27 years to life. It is fascinating to follow along with Kirn and marvel at his ability to let himself be duped. He wanted to believe like the most fervent religious devotee that Clark Rockefeller was the person he lusted for him to be. Kirn writes in a style that reminded me of articles I used to read in Esquire Magazine, that isn’t a knock because they are really good writers, it is just unusual for me to read a book written in a journalistic style. Walter Kirn always looks...well...pensive. You know the outcome early in the book and yet the real story is about a smart man allowing himself to believe in the unbelievable. We have this impression that rich people are different than us, maybe even eccentric, and maybe that allows us a logic loophole to keep us on the hook for the con. It certainly worked well on Kirn. He hoped that Clark was taking him toward the glitz and glam of the beautiful and the powerful, but instead he found himself in a courtroom trying to stare daggers through the back of Clark’s head feeling like a fool. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  2. 4 out of 5

    Eve

    Do you know what a humblebrag is? It's when someone boasts about his status or activities while pretending to be self-effacing. For example: 'I have nothing to wear to the Oscars!' or 'The worst thing about climbing Mt. Everest is that I can't get a phone signal.' Walter Kirn has pulled off not a one-line humblebrag but a 250-page one. In relating his relationship with a con man—whom we first met in Mark Seal's superior 'The Man in the Rockefeller Suit'—he never lets us forget that he's a rural Do you know what a humblebrag is? It's when someone boasts about his status or activities while pretending to be self-effacing. For example: 'I have nothing to wear to the Oscars!' or 'The worst thing about climbing Mt. Everest is that I can't get a phone signal.' Walter Kirn has pulled off not a one-line humblebrag but a 250-page one. In relating his relationship with a con man—whom we first met in Mark Seal's superior 'The Man in the Rockefeller Suit'—he never lets us forget that he's a rural Midwestern boy who wound up in the Ivy League and later befriended some kind of alleged American aristocrat who took him into his world...only to be exposed as yet another fool (albeit one who marries a movie star's daughter and gets to hang out with George Clooney too, among other unabashedly out-of-place details) when the guy turned out to be a serial liar, thief, kidnapper and, ultimately, murderer. What I thought would provide a satisfying ending to the unfinished story in Seal's book (at the time, the murder trial had not taken place) turned out to be a self-indulgent step back as we skim the surface of 'Clark Rockefeller's' rise and fall. If this is what hanging out with rich snobs does to a person, I'll just stay home and watch Netflix. One star.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Gail

    At one library system, there are twelve requests for this book and at another, there are thirty-five. I would like to tell these people not to waste their time. Chapter One drew me in immediately and I knew that it was going to be a fast read. The author's descriptions of people, products, locations are very astute and sharp. Unfortunately, this book is more about Walter Kirn than his subject, and Kirn is certainly not that appealing, anyway. (Look at his creepy picture on the back flap.) He At one library system, there are twelve requests for this book and at another, there are thirty-five. I would like to tell these people not to waste their time. Chapter One drew me in immediately and I knew that it was going to be a fast read. The author's descriptions of people, products, locations are very astute and sharp. Unfortunately, this book is more about Walter Kirn than his subject, and Kirn is certainly not that appealing, anyway. (Look at his creepy picture on the back flap.) He definitely has problems which he does write about that don't belong here. If you want to know all about Clark Rockefeller, by all means get "The Man in the Rockefeller Suit: The Astonishing Rise and Spectacular Fall of a Serial Imposter" by Mark Seal. The book will keep you riveted plus it's not filled with incidentals as "Blood Will Out" is.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kayla Perry

    I'm 146 pages in and I'm calling it quits. The final straw for me was this sexist line about Sandy: "She looked punished and flayed by adventures in the business world and was wearing those clothes that they make women wear to prove they're serious and don't think of sex much." Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with this guy? Since this book is more about him than it is about "Clark" I can say pretty comfortably that based on the content of this book that this guy has some serious hang-ups about I'm 146 pages in and I'm calling it quits. The final straw for me was this sexist line about Sandy: "She looked punished and flayed by adventures in the business world and was wearing those clothes that they make women wear to prove they're serious and don't think of sex much." Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with this guy? Since this book is more about him than it is about "Clark" I can say pretty comfortably that based on the content of this book that this guy has some serious hang-ups about women (he married a teenager too, super creepy). Kirn thinks he's a better writer than he actually is which shows in the tone of each tired line of this shoddy joke of a book. His constant assertions about how writers must use everyone they know (as if he definitively speaks for every writer) and his smarmy, superiority complex disgust me. He spends most of the book whining about how terrible his life is and how he can't believe how duped he was instead of focusing on the reason everyone picked up this book: Clark Rockefeller. It's hard to feel sorry for someone like Kirn when he gives you every reason not to be.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ami

    Okay, yes, it is January 10th, but I think I've already found one of my favorite books of 2014. Blood Will Out is many things. First and foremost, it is a journalist investigating a former friend, a man who claimed to be a Rockefeller, but turned out to be a fraud and possibly a murderer. Walter Kirn is especially adept at describing the cons, small and large, that allowed his friend to pretend to be a member of a rarified upper class. But even more interesting to me, Kirn uses the deceptions of Okay, yes, it is January 10th, but I think I've already found one of my favorite books of 2014. Blood Will Out is many things. First and foremost, it is a journalist investigating a former friend, a man who claimed to be a Rockefeller, but turned out to be a fraud and possibly a murderer. Walter Kirn is especially adept at describing the cons, small and large, that allowed his friend to pretend to be a member of a rarified upper class. But even more interesting to me, Kirn uses the deceptions of the Fake-Rockefeller to think about the tweaks we all make to our personality when changing parts of our life. (His stories of coming from a solidly middle class upbringing to attending Princeton resonated *particularly* closely to me.) Obviously some changes are extreme--but what allowed this character to completely make himself over? And what made people so eager to believe it? Recommended for fans of true crime, those with a foot in two worlds, and anyone who likes a gripping story.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Naomi

    What in the hell did I just read? What should have been an incredibly interesting book about Clark Rockefeller turn into a bloviating, schizophrenic book that was all over the place and more about the author than Clark Rockefeller. Seriously?!?! It was 250+ pages of pure torture!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Julie Ehlers

    This book was tailor-made for the likes of me--I thought it was riveting. It's a fascinating portrait of a bizarre con man who turns out to be a murderer, but it's more than just some true-crime book. It's also a memoir of a man--a literary novelist--who gets drawn in by someone he thinks is just a rich eccentric, and then has to ask himself what it is that made him such an easy mark. There are reviews here on Goodreads complaining that the book is as much about Walter Kirn as it is about "Clark This book was tailor-made for the likes of me--I thought it was riveting. It's a fascinating portrait of a bizarre con man who turns out to be a murderer, but it's more than just some true-crime book. It's also a memoir of a man--a literary novelist--who gets drawn in by someone he thinks is just a rich eccentric, and then has to ask himself what it is that made him such an easy mark. There are reviews here on Goodreads complaining that the book is as much about Walter Kirn as it is about "Clark Rockefeller." Of course it is. That's the point. "Clark Rockefeller" is not us; all we can do is react in disbelief at what he's capable of doing. Walter Kirn, on the other hand, is us--he makes us ask ourselves what we would do in a similar situation, and that makes the whole thing much more interesting. Is Walter Kirn likeable throughout? No--he makes it clear from the start that his motives for befriending Clark are not entirely pure, and he seems rather clueless about human beings in general. But he does a good job of conveying the discombobulation of realizing that someone you thought you knew isn't who you thought they were at all, and the betrayal, anger, and bewilderment that go along with that. My favorite passage: "We all understand that you can't predict the future, but getting to know an old friend, however perversely, through his murder trial, reveals a truth less commonly acknowledged: you can't predict the past. It can change at any time.... When fresh information discredits past perceptions, the underlying memories remain but they no longer hold their old positions; you're left to draw a new map with displaced landmarks. You thought you were found but you realize you were lost, and someday you may discover that you're lost now." Oh yeah.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Breinholt

    I have been totally fascinated with the story of Clark Rockefeller for years. This is the worst book "about" the story I have read. It is more about Walter Kirn than about Clark Rockefeller. I think he mentioned the fact that he was raised Mormon, but no longer believes, or the fact he went to Princeton more than he mentions the murders Rockefeller committed. It feels to me like a poor writer needing money capitalizes on a fluke that allows him to be invited into Rockefeller's life. I just... I have been totally fascinated with the story of Clark Rockefeller for years. This is the worst book "about" the story I have read. It is more about Walter Kirn than about Clark Rockefeller. I think he mentioned the fact that he was raised Mormon, but no longer believes, or the fact he went to Princeton more than he mentions the murders Rockefeller committed. It feels to me like a poor writer needing money capitalizes on a fluke that allows him to be invited into Rockefeller's life. I just... Don't.... Care... If you are interested in the story go read The Man In The Rockefeller Suit.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Nette

    Interesting story, but I kind of hated the author. In two different incidents he ran over his pet dog AND his own toddler son, which made me pretty unsympathetic to his outrage about being briefly conned by a weird guy who turns out to be a murderer. And it's horribly overwritten; I prefer my true crime books terse and snappy.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jan Rice

    We're brought up to trust and could hardly function otherwise. The cop who pulls us over to write a ticket must be a cop because he wears the uniform; the bank teller to whom we hand our paycheck is depositing it, not stealing it, because he works behind a marble counter; the nurse who places our newborn in our arms is really a nurse because she's holding our baby, and our baby is our baby because she's holding it." This is the memoir of the author, Walter Kirn, who was conned by a man claiming We're brought up to trust and could hardly function otherwise. The cop who pulls us over to write a ticket must be a cop because he wears the uniform; the bank teller to whom we hand our paycheck is depositing it, not stealing it, because he works behind a marble counter; the nurse who places our newborn in our arms is really a nurse because she's holding our baby, and our baby is our baby because she's holding it." This is the memoir of the author, Walter Kirn, who was conned by a man claiming to be a Rockefeller whom he would get to know--or so he thought--over a period of fifteen years. One of the most valuable aspects of the book is the author's attention to how he contributed to his own conning--but first we should remember, as the introductory quote shows, that we all contribute to the construction of our shared reality. So the author's participation in his own conning is a matter of degree. Don't be too hard on him. That said, the author actively built a story to make sense of the man known to him as "Clark Rockefeller," who in fact was a German immigrant named Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter who had arrived in the U.S. as a teenager. For instance, when they first met he explained Clark's peculiar way of talking and predilection for words such as "erstwhile" and "improprietous" as products of an insular upbringing. There was the glamour and wanting someone special as a friend and possible subject. But as long as the con was in effect the glamour outweighed the desire to write about him. The book title's double meaning comes from the murder Clark committed back in his 20s while using one of his previous assumed identities. The author's investment in his friend's identity was so complete that when the news of his being a murder suspect broke, Walter at first blush believed the real Rockefellers were disowning Clark out of snobbishness. When the truth dawned, and when he instinctively believed his-friend-formerly-known-as-Clark could be a murderer, the author experienced something like a paradigm shift. "It humbled me. It reoriented everything. It revealed to me the size and power of my ignorance and vanity." The author was able to hold in mind how he'd thought and reacted and felt pre-revelation. He had the gift of being able to hold that up for comparison with his present state of mind. That's not so typical: once we change our minds or convert, the way we felt before tends to become unavailable to us. The fact the author didn't forget is the source of many of the book's excellent insights. Walter and Clark had met under what turned out to have been a carefully orchestrated pretext in 1998, and, from Walter's point of view, when the trial began in 2013 they had been friends for the last ten years. At the trial Walter met some of the other friends/marks he'd never been meant to meet and also got to put his head together with those of other journalists, witnesses and writers. What he came up with is perhaps the most fascinating angle of the book: the literary--and cinematic--quality to Clark's transgressions. It turns out he had taken his cues from various crime and noire sources. I really should read Patricia Highsmith and watch some those old movies I haven't seen! Not to mention inspiring me toward my promised reread of The Great Gatsby. I was flabbergasted by what Walter Kirn wrote about Gatsby and need to rethink it. If nothing else in the book had had merit (which is far from the case!), that alone would have made it worth reading. It's interesting I found the author so insightful; I think he's very different from me on the issue of being taken in by this sort of character, as I would have my guard way up (but maybe would have distrusted my reaction and ended up feeling left out). I wanted to find out who the author was before beginning to read his memoir, and came up with this article from him about his family's and his experience with Mormonism. Reading the article was useful also in that I had an audio version (as well as the hard copy), and the narrator slightly varied from the matter-of-fact tone he should have used for the author. His camping it up just a little interfered with the distinction between the author and Clark, but because I had the author's voice in my head already, from the article as well as from the book, that wasn't a problem. Also the narrator didn't do quite enough research ahead of time and mispronounced about eight or nine words (for example, "ammiability," "pereenially," "de' fect" as "de fect'," "koan" as "cone") plus misread one ("incarnation" for "incarceration!"). But toward the end of the book the joke was on me: I thought he'd mispronounced another one, but it was I who didn't know how to pronounce that one. ...What's that? Oh, okay. It was "chimera." Here is the New York Times book review that hooked me. Yet from the review I expected the author to be a little bit sad and pitiful, which he was not. You knew who I was, and deep down I knew who you were, even if I played dumb there for a time--so dumb I didn't realize I was playing, which, looking back, was a fairly cunning strategy. ----------------- I almost forgot: Goodreads gets a mention in Blood Will Out, since Clark had turned to the John Mortimer novel Paradise Postponed for the odd name of one of his minor aliases, "Leslie Titmuss." When author Walter Kirn googled that, the publisher's blurb on Goodreads is what came up.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Julie Christine

    3.5 Stars Recently, I sought out the advice and guidance of someone whom I respect and admire, who I hope might become a mentor in a quiet, occasional way. In the course of our conversation, a relevant fact about a mutual acquaintance was disclosed. And then an opinion to be cautious was offered. The information tripped me up emotionally as much as it shocked me. I felt duped and manipulated by this mutual connection, realizing they had painted a very different picture of themselves in the few 3.5 Stars Recently, I sought out the advice and guidance of someone whom I respect and admire, who I hope might become a mentor in a quiet, occasional way. In the course of our conversation, a relevant fact about a mutual acquaintance was disclosed. And then an opinion to be cautious was offered. The information tripped me up emotionally as much as it shocked me. I felt duped and manipulated by this mutual connection, realizing they had painted a very different picture of themselves in the few months that we'd spent getting to know one another. But later, in the quiet of my own mind, I replayed our conversations and interactions and accepted what I didn't want to: the signs had been there, but because this individual flattered my ego while also appealing to my tendency to protect wounded, vulnerable creatures, I allowed myself to be reeled in. I am now faced with unreeling connection and releasing this person, gently, for this soul means no harm. But the older I get, the more determined I am to immerse myself in healthy relationships and set some healthy distance between me and the intolerably neurotic. Fortunately, it didn't take me as long as Walter Kirn to realize I'd been duped. Nor is my manipulator remotely close to the sociopathic depths of Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, aka Clark Rockefeller/Chris C. Crowe/Chris Chichester/Charles Smith/Chip Smith. For fifteen years, Gerhartsreiter flitted in and out of Walter Kirn's life as Clark Rockefeller (yes, those Rockefellers), reeling in Kirn through a carefully-crafted set of duplicities until Gerhartsreiter-Rockefeller was exposed as a calculated killer. But even more shocking ultimately, is that Kirn allowed himself to be hoodwinked, ignoring all the signs, including his own disquietude. Walter Kirn, a novelist and journalist, works some kind of strange magic in Blood Will Out. It is a memoir because it's really about Kirn and this strange, sad, fascinating period in his life. It's the story of how a self-absorbed writer became the dupe of a self-absorbed murderer. It is also a treatise on how Western literature and American pop culture shaped the motives and M.O. of a brilliant, twisted mind. As Kirn posits, "Some people kill for love and some for money, but Clark, I'd grown convinced, had killed for literature." Whatever could he mean? Read this and find out; Kirn does an excellent job of connecting the literary and cinematic dots. Funny. I have absolutely no recollection of the 2008 kidnapping incident nor of last year's murder trial and subsequent guilty verdict and life in prison sentence for the Christian Gerhartsreiter. My first encounter with this story was via a Fresh Air with Terri Gross interview several weeks ago. Kirn and his story were so compelling, I sought out this memoir. It's a quick, wry read. Kirn manages to come off as both self-effacing and narcissistic, but that's utterly in keeping with the author of "Up In The Air", which you probably know better as a movie starring George Clooney and Vera Farmiga. In fact, Vera Farmiga's character? Yep. Kirn has a way with duplicitous people. Wow. Now that I think about it, exactly a year ago this week I had to slice off contact with a virtual acquaintance who went a wee bit postal on me. Another needy, lost soul who played on my inherent naïveté and desire to please. Or maybe it's the writer in me--wanting to hang on long past the point of common sense, because I know there's a good story in there, somewhere. I need to do a better job of separating life from art. I'm learning ...

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sonia

    One important thing I learned from this book is never ever get in a car with Walter Kirn. In the course of this book, he runs over a rescue dog with his truck, runs over but miraculously does not kill his toddler son, drives with a paralyzed dog on his lap that he keeps looking at, drives while looking at the map on his phone and gets lost for hours in Los Angeles (and I know people will think I'm weird here, but I think it is really difficult to get lost in Los Angeles--the signage is so good), One important thing I learned from this book is never ever get in a car with Walter Kirn. In the course of this book, he runs over a rescue dog with his truck, runs over but miraculously does not kill his toddler son, drives with a paralyzed dog on his lap that he keeps looking at, drives while looking at the map on his phone and gets lost for hours in Los Angeles (and I know people will think I'm weird here, but I think it is really difficult to get lost in Los Angeles--the signage is so good), gets lost in New England, and cannot complete a roadtrip from Montana to New York. What a moron. This book tests its reader by constantly comparing the sociopathy (which is one way of being an asshole) of the impostor-murderer Clark Rockefeller with the asshole elitism of Walter Kirn, who takes great pains to highlight his own impostor anxiety without grounding it in anything. All this blah blah about his posturing with his Princeton and Oxford classmates, and I'm just a humble Mormon from Minnesota, but oh, by the way, my dad also went to Princeton. But it's ok, he's not really asking for us to sympathize with him; the point of the book seems to be that, as in Rockefeller's estimation, people (or persons, as he would say) are stupid and vain. QED. Personal notes: call it the Alain Delon Lost Weekend. I find myself in my hometown as a tourist for a long weekend, and I checked this out from the Central Library just days after adding it to my to-reads, and between readings I went to a dance performance based on Rocco and His Brothers, one of my favorite movies starring Alain Delon. Clark Rockefeller seems to have based himself (at least according to to the mythomaniac Kirn) on Tom Ripley, a version of whom of course is Alain Delon in Purple Noon. What to do in these last 24 hours for the Portland Delon trifecta? I guess I can listen to The Queen Is Dead.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kristin Butler

    The entire time I read this book, I could not help thinking only a handful of gullible people would ever be hoodwinked by a character as pathetic and disturbing as "Clark Rockefeller". And Walter Kirn was one of them. In fact, the entire book appears to be a defense of his naïveté, meant to soothe his wounded ego at having been taken in by such a con artist. "Look", he seems to be saying " it wasn't just me! There were lots of us. I'm good enough. I'm smart enough and people like me!" But the The entire time I read this book, I could not help thinking only a handful of gullible people would ever be hoodwinked by a character as pathetic and disturbing as "Clark Rockefeller". And Walter Kirn was one of them. In fact, the entire book appears to be a defense of his naïveté, meant to soothe his wounded ego at having been taken in by such a con artist. "Look", he seems to be saying " it wasn't just me! There were lots of us. I'm good enough. I'm smart enough and people like me!" But the Stuart Smalley act can only go so far. It appears Kirn has spent the better half of his life playing the sycophant to the rich and famous at the expense of all common sense. And yet at the end of this book, where we wonder whether the narrator has any self awareness, I personally couldn't drum up much sympathy for him, as he continually denigrates others to boost his own ego. Kirn portrays his serial fascination and intermittent brushes with the rich and famous as "friendship", even though he makes it clear he neither liked nor trusted "Rockefellor" during their 15 year acquaintance. He constantly derides his Preppy Princeton colleagues,while simultaneously coveting their lifestyles. He alludes that his failed marriage to a "teenager" was a matter of his being more "mature", when in fact, it is quite apparent that the marriage was precipitated by the authors' obsession with his wife's famous" parents, and ended most likely due to his Ritalin and alcohol addiction than to his moral and intellectual superiority over his teenage bride. But my one real takeaway was....Yes. The law of attraction is real. Walter Kirn and "Clark Rockefellor" were meant to meet at some karmic level. For every successful psychopath, con artist and liar out there, there is an unsuspecting "victim" right around the corner. And let's hope with a little more self analysis and insight Mr Kirn may also learn to look in the rear view mirror before backing trucks over babies, wear weather appropriate gear and remembering where he parks when spontaneously cutting down trees in subzero temperatures, and review road signs when driving in unfamiliar locations. That common sense might come in handy some day, and is something they don't teach you at Princeton and Oxford.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    The Hook - Like an accident or a fire the voyeur in me can’t resist a con man unless I’m the poor soul being conned. The Line – “He’s the villain with a thousand faces, a kind of charming, dark-side-cowboy, perennially slipping off into the sunset and reappearing at dawn in a new outfit. The Sinker – Blood Will Out: The True Story of A Murder, A Mystery, and a Masquerade is my book group’s pick this January. Even though I knew much about the fictitious life of Clark Rockefeller, there were still The Hook - Like an accident or a fire the voyeur in me can’t resist a con man unless I’m the poor soul being conned. The Line – “He’s the villain with a thousand faces, a kind of charming, dark-side-cowboy, perennially slipping off into the sunset and reappearing at dawn in a new outfit. The Sinker – Blood Will Out: The True Story of A Murder, A Mystery, and a Masquerade is my book group’s pick this January. Even though I knew much about the fictitious life of Clark Rockefeller, there were still surprises. OMG, he is the master of deceit. Just imagine being on the receiving end of his schemes and blatant lies. He’s so good that even though you should see through his façade, you don’t. Even when the truth is smack dab right in front of you, he’s just personable enough that you don’t want to believe it. And then you’re just plain mad. Walter Kirn met the man who passed himself off as a Rockefeller, those Rockefellers, many years ago. Kirn, a journalist with a bit of time on his hands and a do good spirit offered to drive a crippled dog from his home in Montana to the apartment of Clark Rockefeller in New York City. As Kirn describes it, “If I’d met the dog first, I might never have met Clark.” Fate was not to be so kind. From this seemingly innocent beginning Kirn finds himself a pawn in Clark’s game. It’s many years before Kirn realizes the full implication of the strange friendship he has with Clark. With several point on references to Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley novels the real face of Clark Rockefeller is revealed. Don’t miss this. It’s true crime at it’s very best but sad that this good read comes at the expense of so many good people.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ayelet Waldman

    Holy shit! This book will snatch you by the throat and not let you go until you’re finished.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    I'll review after I get home after the eclipse.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Trish

    This very clever nonfiction mystery unravels the fifteen-year relationship the author, Walter Kirn, had with the noted con man Christian Gerhartsreiter, a.k.a. Clark Rockefeller. Kirn sets the scene in the beginning by relating several very funny and cringe-worthy examples of his own appalling lack of good judgment in his life and his career culminating in his meeting Clark Rockefeller. Why they remain friends over the years that follow is the mystery we seek to uncover. Kirn's tone at the This very clever nonfiction mystery unravels the fifteen-year relationship the author, Walter Kirn, had with the noted con man Christian Gerhartsreiter, a.k.a. Clark Rockefeller. Kirn sets the scene in the beginning by relating several very funny and cringe-worthy examples of his own appalling lack of good judgment in his life and his career culminating in his meeting Clark Rockefeller. Why they remain friends over the years that follow is the mystery we seek to uncover. Kirn's tone at the start, the peevish snark of the perennially disappointed, changes to aghast uncertainty tinged with outrage, and then to something like a belligerent pride. In the very spooky finale to this mystery we find ourselves staring into the eyes and soul not of Clark Rockefeller, but into those of Walter Kirn. Kirn handles the material masterfully, telling his side of the several phone calls, dinners, and weekends he and Rockefeller spent together over the years, giving us glimpses into his own willingness to suspend disbelief: “he was interesting,” “he was powerful,” “I thought I might learn something,” etc. Kirn rolls into the details of Gerhartsreiter’s trial, relating court scenes and the feelings the facts aroused in him. He is dogged, obessed even, with uncovering what Gerhartsreiter was thinking when he entered into relationships with people. He describes Sandra Boss, the woman who lived longest with Clark Rockefeller: "Her shoulder-length hair was the blond that covers gray and in her ears were modest single pearls whose luster was that of money banked, not spent." And he learns that Clark Rockefeller played on the “vanity, vanity, vanity” of his targets. This thought rotates in our head as Kirn brings his story to an end. Kirn reminds us several times that he is a journalist and a novelist, which is why we are startled at the end to discover that the man writing the story is a mirror, in some ways, of the man he is writing about. Which man is the cipher? Kirn can also be manipulative and sly and less than truthful: “I was acting much of the time…I was conning him. I betrayed him.” It is a beguiling tale, start to finish, and Kirn lives up to his reputation. P.S. Goodreads folks will really like this book because Rockefeller patterned his life, his murders and his coverups, on fictional characters, either from books or from film. If you ever wanted to fiction and nonfiction to mesh, you've got it in the material here. Both Rockefeller and Kirn are masters.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Biblio Files (takingadayoff)

    Sixty pages was all I could take before I decided to bail out. Maybe I shouldn't have started it at all. Violent true crime is not a topic I usually go for, but I enjoy a good scam and Clark Rockefeller was a fraud, so that seemed promising. I didn't know about the double murder though. And I've liked articles by Walter Kirn as well as his novel Up in the Air, which was odd, but enjoyable. But Blood Will Out was relentlessly gloomy and morbid, beginning with the pathetic little crippled dog that Sixty pages was all I could take before I decided to bail out. Maybe I shouldn't have started it at all. Violent true crime is not a topic I usually go for, but I enjoy a good scam and Clark Rockefeller was a fraud, so that seemed promising. I didn't know about the double murder though. And I've liked articles by Walter Kirn as well as his novel Up in the Air, which was odd, but enjoyable. But Blood Will Out was relentlessly gloomy and morbid, beginning with the pathetic little crippled dog that Kirn offers to drive cross-country to Clark, who is adopting the dog. Then there's Kirn's adventures investigating meth neighborhoods for an article he's writing, very gritty. He explains that at this period in his life, he's taking a lot of ritalin to keep focused and drinking a lot, for other reasons. So we know he isn't a reliable narrator, perhaps. He goes on to his doomed marriage, his troubled mother-in-law at the time, his own mother's possibly avoidable death, and his general somber attitude. You have to wonder why this Princeton-educated and seemingly smart guy is taken in by Clark. The obvious answer is that he isn't, but that Clark is interesting enough that he wants to hang around with him to get material for an article, novel, or book. Which he did. But I chose not to spend any more time with these morose characters.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    I would caution anyone who picks up this book thinking that they will learn much about Clark Rockafeller that they can't glean from the book jacket blurb. Make no mistake, this book is about Walter Kirn and his rage at his own grasping, social climbing self. I pondered from the beginning, "How could a "learned" individual like Walker Kirn (who never lets us forget for a moment that he is a graduate of the hallowed halls of Princeton and Oxford) have fallen for such an obvious con?" Well, I can I would caution anyone who picks up this book thinking that they will learn much about Clark Rockafeller that they can't glean from the book jacket blurb. Make no mistake, this book is about Walter Kirn and his rage at his own grasping, social climbing self. I pondered from the beginning, "How could a "learned" individual like Walker Kirn (who never lets us forget for a moment that he is a graduate of the hallowed halls of Princeton and Oxford) have fallen for such an obvious con?" Well, I can only conclude that he must be selling Clark Rockafeller very short solely for the purpose of revenge. Kirn portrays Clark as a wimpy, lispy, bore, a fussy, impossibly outlandish liar.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette

    I'm impressed. As different from an Ann Rule non-fiction true murder report as you can get, and that's my usual comparison bar for superior work in this genre. Ann Rule does it well. But this "way" (Walter Kirn) just worked. Some spots were jumpy and that's why it didn't get the 4th star. 3.5 stars The author had experienced 15 years of life crossovers with this character who he knows as Clark Rockefeller. Their first meeting is tied in to a transport for a fostered dog to go to his new home in I'm impressed. As different from an Ann Rule non-fiction true murder report as you can get, and that's my usual comparison bar for superior work in this genre. Ann Rule does it well. But this "way" (Walter Kirn) just worked. Some spots were jumpy and that's why it didn't get the 4th star. 3.5 stars The author had experienced 15 years of life crossovers with this character who he knows as Clark Rockefeller. Their first meeting is tied in to a transport for a fostered dog to go to his new home in New York, from Montana. They became "friends" bridging varying acquaintance connections in several fields and in various visits. He tells the story of those 15 years backwards, forwards, and turned inside/out. With the closure results of trial at the rear, but almost all other factors tied together by psychological factors rather than in a rather mish-mosh chronology. Not so much are events tied to "time" but to "influence or control" of that particular meeting. This becomes a deep, very deep personality disorder analysis. And not only of the suspected murderer. For the controlled and enablers (many) as well, especially the author. I read this book slowly. There were certain parts that merited a reread for the psychological insights the author expresses about himself. Better than any therapy, what he learned! Brilliantly written too. This was a crystal window into the human being who lives to lie. They are actually far, far more numerous than serial killers. And often more dangerous. Highly recommend this to those who have interest in real life skills of social climbing, influences often unseen/unfelt at the time for "liking" or attaching to a friend or to a specific group. In other words, many of the core entities of social psychology study. Humans' self identity in groups of "us" and "then". Attachment and control and how empathy and sentimentality can be marketed. And are. Individuals' lives constructed for duplicitous advancement or ulterior motive. This is not a book that every reader will like. It might seem redundant to many who don't have patience for all the literary, movie, theater and other modern cultural media allusions. Or who just want facts and likeability of the "good" guys. I'll read more from this author, for sure. Superior insight and writing. Tick on your brain indeed! I've never heard this style of manipulation described any better.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Shawn

    I almost didn't read this book. My husband had, called it a "page-turner", said he thought I would enjoy reading it; and still I decided I would pass. Then, during an "Author Luncheon" at a local pub/bookstore, I heard Walter Kirn's retelling of his friendship with the murderer and pathological liar known as "Clark Rockefeller". I immediately changed my mind, but not for exactly the reasons one might think. Kirn seemed like an intelligent guy, so I figured the book would most likely be well I almost didn't read this book. My husband had, called it a "page-turner", said he thought I would enjoy reading it; and still I decided I would pass. Then, during an "Author Luncheon" at a local pub/bookstore, I heard Walter Kirn's retelling of his friendship with the murderer and pathological liar known as "Clark Rockefeller". I immediately changed my mind, but not for exactly the reasons one might think. Kirn seemed like an intelligent guy, so I figured the book would most likely be well written, and it was. But, what I most wanted to see was if he would admit in the book what seemed glaringly obvious to Me while listening to him speak -- that he is as big a lying, pretentious, self-aggrandizing phony as the man who would be a Rockefeller. He did..., kind of..., in a round-and-about, reluctant, honesty-with-a-twist sort of self revelation. It becomes clear pretty early on why the ratings are so low for something so compellingly written. Both in writing and in person, the authors insecurities are palpable and surpassed only by the undercurrent of anger at being born outside of the privilege, influence and importance that he envied (and still envies) in other "less worthy" recipients. That's tough for some people to read. He is arrogant, and the worst possible snob -- one who fashions himself into something he fancies himself as more deserving of being, often on the backs of others he deems inferior, all the while claiming, in all due "modesty", to be self-made. Little wonder he could consider someone like "Clark Rockerfeller" a friend. They were more similar than not. And, his disappointment, even anger, at discovering the truth about this imposter was not so much that he'd been scammed, or that a murder had been committed during the decades of scammery, but that the flimflam man's fall from the social stratosphere took him down, as well, and the discovery that his friend's silver spoon was mere cheap metal left him feeling tarnished. Fascinating stuff!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Over the years I have read several articles on the man who presented himself to the world as Clark Rockefeller. Many fell for his Mr. Ripley persona over the years before he was revealed as an imposter, kidnapper and murdered. The imposter was really German immigrant Christian Gerhartsreiter. If you are not familiar with this story, I high recommend reading the Wikipedia page for an overview. It is an amazing tale of real-life deception. Walter Kirn had a unique perspective from which to write Over the years I have read several articles on the man who presented himself to the world as Clark Rockefeller. Many fell for his Mr. Ripley persona over the years before he was revealed as an imposter, kidnapper and murdered. The imposter was really German immigrant Christian Gerhartsreiter. If you are not familiar with this story, I high recommend reading the Wikipedia page for an overview. It is an amazing tale of real-life deception. Walter Kirn had a unique perspective from which to write Blood Will Out. The two men met in 1988 when Kirn drove an injured dog from Montana to New York City for “Rockefeller.” The friendship lasted through the years. Kirn, a novelist and writer for several respected magazines, covered Gerhartsreiter’s 2011 trial for the murder of Jonathan Sohus. Kirn offers unique perspective on the stories and variations of stories “Clark” told over the years. Kirn digs and finds interesting connections and basis for the life story “Clark” presented. Some of the most interesting moments are when Kirn discovers the ways he fed and played a part in this grand charade. It is absolutely amazing that this imposter was able to charm so many over the years. He appears to be a mad genius with no conscious. I gave it two stars as I got tired of and annoyed with Kirn’s personal history that did not relate directly to the subject of the book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sophie

    I was hoping Blood Will Out by Walter Kirn was going to read like a modern day In Cold Blood by Truman Capote and I should have known better. Walter Kirn recounts his friendship with "Clark Rockefeller" (Christian Gerhartsreiter), a serial impostor and murderer who is now currently serving a prison sentence of 27 years to life in the United States. The book itself was a tedious affair with very little content and only a few anecdotal events, it felt more like a distasteful humblebrag than a I was hoping Blood Will Out by Walter Kirn was going to read like a modern day In Cold Blood by Truman Capote and I should have known better. Walter Kirn recounts his friendship with "Clark Rockefeller" (Christian Gerhartsreiter), a serial impostor and murderer who is now currently serving a prison sentence of 27 years to life in the United States. The book itself was a tedious affair with very little content and only a few anecdotal events, it felt more like a distasteful humblebrag than a credible account of Christian Gerhartsreiter's crimes. I would be interested in reading The Man in the Rockefeller Suit by Mark Seal to see how the two books compare.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Carla

    This book had little to offer. What sounded interesting on NPR, ended up to be a very weird book, with too much author information, and a book that looks like it was written for a money grab. The book is about the authors interactions with the man who claimed to be Clark Rockerfeller, a "black sheep" of the Rockerfeller family. If you don't know the story, you won't find any good information in this book. The writer tells us early on about his own disfunctions, which basically really had me This book had little to offer. What sounded interesting on NPR, ended up to be a very weird book, with too much author information, and a book that looks like it was written for a money grab. The book is about the authors interactions with the man who claimed to be Clark Rockerfeller, a "black sheep" of the Rockerfeller family. If you don't know the story, you won't find any good information in this book. The writer tells us early on about his own disfunctions, which basically really had me questioning half of what he wrote. Kirn is a mess himself. Too much information about himself has me questioning his motive for writing the book, which later became clear. Money. Don't waste yours.

  25. 4 out of 5

    J.

    "We’re brought up to trust and could hardly function otherwise. The cop who pulls us over to write a ticket must be a cop because he wears the uniform; the bank teller to whom we hand our paycheck is depositing it, not stealing it, because he works behind a marble counter; the nurse who places our newborn in our arms is really a nurse because she’s holding our baby, and our baby is our baby because she’s holding it. When trust is abused, the need for it persists. Trust was crumbling everywhere "We’re brought up to trust and could hardly function otherwise. The cop who pulls us over to write a ticket must be a cop because he wears the uniform; the bank teller to whom we hand our paycheck is depositing it, not stealing it, because he works behind a marble counter; the nurse who places our newborn in our arms is really a nurse because she’s holding our baby, and our baby is our baby because she’s holding it. When trust is abused, the need for it persists. Trust was crumbling everywhere just then..." In photography, there are the great-subject kinds of works, like maybe the spectaculars of Ansel Adams, where something tremendous compels an artist to try to evoke the grandeur of the scene. The more intriguing kind of photography is the interested-observer branch, where the subject might never attract notice if it were not for the viewpoint or vision that the photographer brings. This is certainly one of those great-subject cases; the facts at hand are entirely astounding, on their own. The story of Clark Rockefeller has everything -- an in-depth tour of a grand neurosis, a freakshow story of confidences built and betrayed, an unspooling nightmare on every turn of the page. Kirn does well enough to marshal the facts and spin a clear rendition of this multiform narrative; his drifts toward hunter-thompsonish Immersion Journalism are, well, his thing. He was there, it's his call. But being that the case is itself so unique, he has left himself open to questions about how he would tell the tale. His own experiences with parenthood and divorce, career paths and drug abuse are well, again, his idea of what was necessary in this book. There are other, presumably objective renditions out there of this same true-crime story, and you as reader would turn to this one only if you wanted the inside track. Well, here it is, though often enough sharing way too much about the author and his narcissist streak than is really required to set the stage. In the end, when all the tumblers fall and the lock turns to open up the mystery, Kirn has settled on the wrong meme to land on. I don't think it's a spoiler to say, even in the land of Grand Deception and unexpected details meaning more than they appear, that the fate of a pedigreed dog really matters much, or was the right topic to close the story. It is Kirn's problem that there has been no real solution-- as in verified, detailed explanation -- to the significant central enigma of the book, the murder of a human being. He obviously needed to get this book out before rather than after the actual solution was able to reach the light of day. And that's why he ends on the stupid little detail of the dog; he has to stay enigmatic if he wants to publish now, rather than wagering on when that the actual truth might ever emerge. Kind of a narrative dealbreaker, I'm saying. If I were being suspicious I'd guess that Kirn thinks he's got volume two of this, coming down the bunny trail once the case is settled for certain. Crazy, crazy story, though, whatever you may think of the author's handling. And a kind of necessary entry, in the big, overall book of Imposters and Con Artists, always an interesting study. Finally, in the quibble department, Kirn makes a point of noting, regarding a forged painting, that "..he even names the particular Motherwell.." as Elegy To The Spanish Republic. The thing is, almost all of Motherwell's most famous paintings were called that. Kind of like saying, we know the particular method of how the killer got there-- in an automobile. Uhm, yeah.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Walter Kirn wants you to know that went to Princeton AND Oxford. That he married a teenager when he was 34, and that BOTH of the teen’s parents were FAMOUS. That he’s IRRESISTIBLE to the ladies and the gents. That he RAN OVER A DOG and then years later DROVE HIS TRUCK OVER HIS SON (who was fine). That he once drove around lost for hours in a major metropolitan area and gave up and slept IN HIS CAR. That he has a real sixth sense about crime and knows instinctively which neighborhoods and Walter Kirn wants you to know that went to Princeton AND Oxford. That he married a teenager when he was 34, and that BOTH of the teen’s parents were FAMOUS. That he’s IRRESISTIBLE to the ladies and the gents. That he RAN OVER A DOG and then years later DROVE HIS TRUCK OVER HIS SON (who was fine). That he once drove around lost for hours in a major metropolitan area and gave up and slept IN HIS CAR. That he has a real sixth sense about crime and knows instinctively which neighborhoods and convenience stores and gas stations are hotbeds of illegal activity but was also very easily duped by the absurd tales of a con man. Like many other reviewers here, I fell victim to the Fresh Air bump. This dude sucks.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    I bought this audible book on a whim when audible told me I'd like it, but I knew NOTHING about it going in. The fact that it was a true story of murder, mystery etc. sounded exciting and intriguing. The whole beginning of this story is a rather outlandish, albeit true tale of a man, Walter Kirn, who drives across the country with a disabled dog. I seriously considered quitting the book--I'm not a big fan of dog stories and this dog was miserable beyond belief which made me feel rather icchy and I bought this audible book on a whim when audible told me I'd like it, but I knew NOTHING about it going in. The fact that it was a true story of murder, mystery etc. sounded exciting and intriguing. The whole beginning of this story is a rather outlandish, albeit true tale of a man, Walter Kirn, who drives across the country with a disabled dog. I seriously considered quitting the book--I'm not a big fan of dog stories and this dog was miserable beyond belief which made me feel rather icchy and miserable as well. It also seemed a bit slow--where was the murder and the mystery that was promised? Kirn's mission is to deliver the dog to NYC to its new adoptive owner, Clark Rockefeller. That's right--THE Clark Rockefeller--born as Christian Gerhartsreiter and masquerading as an heir to the Rockefeller fortune--although it took me a bit to remember where I'd heard his name. This book isn't meant to be a biography of Clark Rockefeller. Rather it is the author's interactions and friendship with Clark over a 20 year span, as well as the trial. I thought it was a fresh approach to the topic. Along the way we find out plenty about the author's life, his musings about Clark's motives and how much we are all to a certain extent alike and not alike Clark. I found Kirn to be a very likable person--very honest about his shortcomings and humble about his successes. For such a good writer, he didn't seem tempted to self-aggrandization. He told it how it was--and how he was without any literary license for fluff. He was prone to a lot of introspection, which I enjoyed. I also thought it was interesting that his family converted to Mormonism when he was 12, and that he left religion later in life. I have so many questions about Clark Rockefeller. What compelled him to lie to everyone he met and to create so many identities? I'm not sure that I get his motivation for killing John Sohus, and possibly his wife, Linda. Also, was Clark lonely--he didn't have a single person that he told the truth to--not even his wife/wives? Wouldn't that get lonely to always be living a pretense? Is he mentally ill? Enjoyable read. Just don't go into this book expecting it to be a biography of Clark Rockefeller.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Daniela Botterbusch

    3.5 stars... Walter Kirn is so honestly unflattering in his description of his own naivete that it's kind of puzzling yet there's the charm...

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Ochoa

    I once worked with a compulsive liar, the type with grand stories of royal backgrounds, famous people, lotteries won, murdered mothers chopped up and disposed on doorsteps in trashbags. I figured it out pretty quickly not to believe her stories and distanced myself from her as much as possible (I deeply distrust these types of people, for good reason). What I never understood were all the coworkers that either took her word for it or just didn't care and engaged her like any other "friend." The I once worked with a compulsive liar, the type with grand stories of royal backgrounds, famous people, lotteries won, murdered mothers chopped up and disposed on doorsteps in trashbags. I figured it out pretty quickly not to believe her stories and distanced myself from her as much as possible (I deeply distrust these types of people, for good reason). What I never understood were all the coworkers that either took her word for it or just didn't care and engaged her like any other "friend." The former eventually came around and starting expressing doubt, but only after the liar made major mistakes (like talking about buying the aforementioned chopped-up-mother an expensive ring for this coming Mother's Day.) One by one, the latter got screwed over by her antics. I was just one big I TOLD YOU SO. (Seriously people, you need to stay away from these types. They may not all end up murdering someone, but they do not give two turds for you, I promise.) So the question is how can people be so gullible with such obvious lies? Brittany Spears just dropped by? Really? How can people be around someone who spins such tales and want to actually be friends with them? Those are questions Walter Kirn asks himself in this memoir of his time with compulsive liar and probable murderer "Clark Rockefeller." That's not his real name, but the name Walter knew him by, so I'll use that one other than try and spell out the long German one he was born with. And even though Clark was convicted of murder, the case was pretty darn circumstantial. If the book were fiction, it would be a brilliant examination of a person trying to understand why they believed all the lies they were told and failing to see the answer that is right there, in his writing. Walter asked Clark in prison "What is it you look for in people? What in the key? The key to manipulating people?" Clark replies, "Vanity, vanity, vanity." This answer nailed it for me, because up to that point, I saw a narrator who was a name-dropper, insecure with peers of a higher class, a man who needed his vanity stroked. And for someone like Walter, being friends with a Rockefeller was a good ego stroke. At one point, Walter appears to recognize his insecurity as a reason for him to latch on to a "Rockefeller" and feel some of the acceptance he did not feel with his Ivy League peers, but by the end of the book, he has himself worked up in such a state of anger for being deceived, that he comes off petty and emotional. Clark is not a good guy by any means, but Walter works waaayyy too hard to take every word or action from Clark and turn it into something highly nefarious if not purely evil. It was the overboard ramblings of someone with embarrassed and hurt feelings. Too many little "digs" on Clark's sexuality, his looks, his lack of talent as a writer, and so on, to feel that this book was not merely written in an act of vengeance. The true tragedy is that a young man died, but Walter makes the book a tragedy of ego, his ego. He seems to attempt to understand why he allowed himself to be duped, but never quite gets there. He seems to half-heartedly seek out information on the victim who died, but when it came to talking about his own feelings of victimization, you'd think he was vying for a Pulitzer. It also bothered me that Walter seemed to have no concern for the poor dog Shelby until after he discovered Clark had deceived him about who he was. Then, with all the obsessive fury of the wronged, he suddenly wanted to prove to others that Clark killed the dog. Maybe he did kill the dog. At that point I'm not sure what Walter was trying to prove. Maybe being convicted of murder wasn't enough for Walter. Still an interesting book, but much more palatable if you pretend that it's fiction and the author means for you to see a resentful and petty protagonist.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Debra Komar

    Walter Kirn went to Princeton. Don't worry if you didn't know that - he'll tell you 50 times over the course of the book. This book is ostensibly about the "fake" Rockefeller, who was accused of murder. That back copy blurb is deceptive, because this book is really about Walter Kirn. Supposedly Kirn had a 15 year relationship with the imposter, yet he has surprisingly little to say about him. Kirn recounts their first meeting - in which Kirn drives an injured dog that Rockefeller is adopting. Walter Kirn went to Princeton. Don't worry if you didn't know that - he'll tell you 50 times over the course of the book. This book is ostensibly about the "fake" Rockefeller, who was accused of murder. That back copy blurb is deceptive, because this book is really about Walter Kirn. Supposedly Kirn had a 15 year relationship with the imposter, yet he has surprisingly little to say about him. Kirn recounts their first meeting - in which Kirn drives an injured dog that Rockefeller is adopting. The two men then have dinner. Those two encounters feature prominently, although Kirn claims their relationship is more extensive than that. Kirn also sat through the trial, using it as an opportunity to tell his own life story, in the mistaken belief that the reader will find that more interesting than Rockefeller's twisted tale. Kirn is wrong, of course and the net result is both dull and breathtakingly narcissistic. It is clear that Kirn wants to write an autobiography, and his brief encounters with the Rockefeller character gives him license to write it. As bad and disappointing as this book is (in the end, we learn little of Rockefeller, certainly no more than we would from a newspaper account of his crime), I am glad I read it. Kirn's book serves as a cautionary tale to other non-fiction writers who want to impose themselves onto the stories they write. Everyone is entitled to their story and I can see how it would be easy to sell a book when the author can claim a direct relationship with the subject. But we as non-fictionists don't get to usurp other peoples stories to our own benefit. If your interaction with someone more notorious than yourself is significant, by all means include it. It would actually be disingenuous to conceal the relationship from the reader. But trading on that relationship to promote yourself crosses an important line. Kirn is not alone - that line has been crossed in the past by Anne Rule (overselling her "relationship" with Ted Bundy), in the "Foxcatcher" book (a thinly veiled biography of the victim's less famous brother) and in "True Story" (in which a disgraced journalist tries to reclaim his career by co-opting the story of a multiple murderer). Since it appears that authors themselves cannot resist the urge to exploit their brushes with criminal-greatness, perhaps the time has come for publishing houses to take a stand and refuse to print these self-serving tomes. If you want to write an autobiography -by all means, write it, but don't whine if no one wants to read it. If you plan to hide behind true crime to write the same biography, please don't bother.

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