Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade
DescriptionIn the summer of 1998, Walter Kirn--then an aspiring novelist struggling with impending fatherhood and a dissolving marriage--set out on a peculiar, fateful errand: to personally deliver a crippled hunting dog from his home in Montana to the New York apartment of one Clark Rockefeller, a secretive young banker and art collector who had adopted the dog over the Internet. Thus began a fifteen-year relationship that drew Kirn deep into the fun-house world of an outlandish, eccentric son of privilege who ultimately would be unmasked as a brazen serial impostor, child kidnapper, and brutal murderer.
Kirn's one-of-a-kind story of being duped by a real-life Mr. Ripley takes us on a bizarre and haunting journey from the posh private clubrooms of Manhattan to the hard-boiled courtrooms and prisons of Los Angeles. As Kirn uncovers the truth about his friend, a psychopath masquerading as a gentleman, he also confronts hard truths about himself. Why, as a writer of fiction, was he susceptible to the deception of a sinister fantasist whose crimes, Kirn learns, were based on books and movies? What are the hidden psychological links between the artist and the con man? To answer these and other questions, Kirn attends his old friend's murder trial and uses it as an occasion to reflect on both their tangled personal relationship and the surprising literary sources of Rockefeller's evil. This investigation of the past climaxes in a tense jailhouse reunion with a man whom Kirn realizes he barely knew--a predatory, sophisticated genius whose life, in some respects, parallels his own and who may have intended to take another victim during his years as a fugitive from justice: Kirn himself.
Combining confessional memoir, true crime reporting, and cultural speculation, Blood Will Out is a Dreiser-esque tale of self-invention, upward mobility, and intellectual arrogance. It exposes the layers of longing and corruption, ambition and self-delusion beneath the Great American con.
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This stunning book dissects psychopathy, the perverse manners of the Internet generation, art, money, and the very nature of belief. At its core, it brilliantly portrays one man's journey through fraudulence to a point of stern resolve. It's tabloid tell-all journalism and Old Testament rebuke. It is of a piece with Roethke: it tells us that the abyss is just a step down the stair.--James Ellroy
This scorching account of a friendship with a man who overturned the author's faith in his own judgment owes its strength to the author's deep understanding of 'the fathomless human genius for credulity, wishful thinking, and self deception, ' starting with his own. Kirn parses the ways in which a highly intelligent writer got caught up with a character more compelling than any he could create, such that this book has the power and insight and raw energy of an instant classic.--Amy Hempel
There is no finer guide to the American berserk than Walter Kirn.--Gary Shteyngart
This fascinating account from the perspective of a victim should appeal to readers of memoirs and true crime titles.--Deirdre Bray
[A] tight, gripping book...This bit of noir, from Mr. Kirn about Clark Rockefeller, is just right.--Janet Maslin
A Hitchcockian psychological thriller and one of the most honest and affecting memoirs I've read. It is superbly written, each sentence a wonder, each page deepening my appreciation of Kirn's precise observation of human nature.--Amy Tan
Kirn bravely lays bare his own vanities and follies in this heart-pounding true tale; he examines the hold of fiction on the human imagination--how we live for it and occasionally die for it, too.--Judith Newman
Absorbing... If there's anything rarer than a con man with Clark's gift for the game, it's a writer of Kirn's quicksilver accomplishment... To have someone of Kirn's ability write about the case from the inside promises exceptional insight into the way such tricksters operate and the even greater enigma of what motivates them.--Laura Miller
Engrossing... A haunting, pained and terrifically engaging self-interrogation... That's what makes great memoirs--which this one is--so interesting: They're at once authentic and performative. They're not all that different in that respect from the act of an impostor and murderer such as Gerhartsreiter, missing only the essential ingredient of madness... It's a major step forward as a writer.--Charles Finch
Blood Will Out is a deep meditation on wealth and class and anybody's self-destructive ability to get conned by a blackbelt liar. A must-read.--Mary Karr
Blood Will Out...makes the darkness visible. Kirn's account of his friendship with this strange and terrible man cuts through the frippery of Gerhartsreiter's outrageous affectations to reveal the Lovecraftian nightmare hiding beneath the J. Press blazer. Blood Will Out is a wise, deeply frightening, and potentially sleep-disrupting read... In the end, Kirn manages to transform his personal account of one of this century's most aberrant personalities into a vessel bearing universal truths about narrative, evil, and the American Dream itself.--Eugenia Williamson