A USA Today Top 10 Best Book of Winter 2014
An In Cold Blood for our time, a chilling, compulsive story of a writer unwittingly caught in the wake of a grifter-turned-murderer.
In 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.
Review“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)
“In Blood Will Out Walter Kirn brilliantly and with remarkable eloquence dissects one of the great impostors—and along the way delves into the fraudulence within that made him so susceptible to the other man's lies. A gripping performance!” (Edmund White)
“Though Blood Will Out is written with Walter Kirn's usual stylistic verve, insight, and imagination it is actually a disturbing account of a one-sided, naively misguided 'friendship' with a dangerous sociopath. Here is a memoir in the guise of a 'true crime story'—a double portrait of writer and subject in which the subject is partially erased even as the writer evokes the considerable tools of his imagination to reconstruct him and his own motive in the bizarre relationship.” (Joyce Carol Oates)
“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)
“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)
“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)
“The parallels with Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley are not lost on Kirn, who spends as much time trying to understand how he and others fell under Gerhartstreiter’s spell as he does relating the primary tale of the criminal himself. Kirn’s candor, ear for dialogue, and crisp prose make for a masterful true crime narrative that is impossible to put down. The book deserves to become a classic.” (Publishers Weekly, Starred Review)
About the AuthorWalter Kirn is the author of Thumbsucker and Up in the Air, both made into major films. His work has appeared in GQ, New York, Esquire, and the New York Times Magazine.