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

Overview

A USA Today Top 10 Best Book of Winter 2014
"Equals Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood as a nonfiction novel of crime.”—Gerald Bartell, San Francisco Chronicle
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 ...

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

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Overview

A USA Today Top 10 Best Book of Winter 2014
"Equals Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood as a nonfiction novel of crime.”—Gerald Bartell, San Francisco Chronicle
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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Walter Kirn is a talented novelist (both his Up in the Air and Thumbsucker were made into major motion pictures), but he could have never dreamed up a scenario as strange as the story of his encounters with the man who called himself Clark Rockefeller. What began in 1998 as an inquiry from a Montana humane society became a ten-year friendship that ended with revelations and trials about multiple fake identities, a kidnapping, perhaps multiple murders, and one homicide conviction. In Blood Will Out, he examines into how conmen make us complicit in our deception even as he delves into the personalities of this master impostor.

Joyce Carol Oates
“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.”
James Ellroy
“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.”
Amy Tan
“A Hitchcockian psychological thriller and one of the most honest and affecting memoirs I've read.”
Mary Karr
“A deep meditation on wealth and class and anybody's self-destructive ability to get conned by a blackbelt liar. A must-read.”
Edmund White
“A gripping performance!”
Amy Hempel
“Has the power and insight and raw energy of an instant classic.”
Gary Shteyngart
“There is no finer guide to the American berserk than Walter Kirn.”
Laura Miller - Salon.com
“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.”
Larry Lebowitz - Miami Herald
“A mélange of memoir, stranger-than-fiction crime reporting and cultural critique. The literary markers run the gamut from James Ellroy’s My Dark Places, and Fyodor Doestoevsky’s Crime and Punishment to Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley trilogy and Strangers on a Train. Kirn’s self-lacerating meditations on class, art, vanity, ambition, betrayal and delusion elevate the material beyond its pulpy core… Kirn’s belated acceptance of reality provides the most fascinating and frustrating element of this engaging, self-flagellating memoir.”
Hector Tobar - Los Angeles Times
“One of the most honest, compelling and strangest books about the relationship between a writer and his subject ever penned by an American scribe— Each new revelation comes subtly, and each adds to the pathetic and creepy portrait of Clark Rockefeller as a vacuous manipulator— The ending of Blood Will Out is at once deeply ambiguous and deeply satisfying. By then, Kirn has looked into the eyes of a cruel, empty man—and learned a lot about himself in the process.”
Eugenia Williamson - Boston Globe
“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.”
Clark Collis - Entertainment Weekly
“Kirn is such a good writer and Gerhartsreiter such a baroquely, demonically colorful subject, you could imagine this being a fine read had they no personal connection. That they did, however, elevates Blood Will Out to another level: Kirn lards his story with detail while reviewing his own psyche, in an attempt to discover how he—a journalist!—could have been so fooled. The irony? With all due respect to Kirn's skills as a novelist, it is hard to conceive of any fictionalized version of 'Clark Rockefeller' being as compelling as the real thing.”
Nina Burleigh - New York Times Book Review
“In this smart, real-life psychological thriller, the fake Rockefeller is a zombie Gatsby and Kirn the post-apocalyptic Fitzgerald.”
Judith Newman - More Magazine
“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.”
Amity Gaige - Slate
“The story of Blood Will Out is one of cosmic ironies and jaw-dropping reversals… What makes Blood Will Out so absorbing is its teller more than its subject. Kirn’s persona is captivating—funny, pissed off, highly literate, and self-searching. He’s also an elegant, classic writer… Add the highly readable, intricately told Blood Will Out to the list of great books about the dizzying tensions of the writing life and the maddening difficulty of getting at the truth.”
Heller McAlpin - The Washington Post
“[A] fascinating account of the imposter he considered his friend for 10 years… Blood Will Out is an exploration of a hoaxer from the point of view of a mark, and of a relationship based on interlocking deceptions and self-deceptions. The result is a moral tale about the dangers of social climbing on a rickety ladder—for both those trying to scramble up the rungs and those trying to hold it steady below.”
Janet Maslin - New York Times Book Review
“[A] tight, gripping book…This bit of noir, from Mr. Kirn about Clark Rockefeller, is just right.”
Nina Burleigh - The New York Times Book Review
“In this smart, real-life psychological thriller, the fake Rockefeller is a zombie Gatsby and Kirn the post-apocalyptic Fitzgerald.”
Charles Finch - Chicago Tribune
“Engrossing… A haunting, pained and terrifically engaging self-interrogation.”
Eric Banks - Bookforum
“A nod to a different canon of con men and tricksters: the protagonist of Melville’s The Confidence-Man, the prep-school clones of Leopold and Loeb of Hitchcock’s Rope, and Highsmith’s highbrow hucksters—all crossed with the shadows of film noir.”
Library Journal
02/15/2014
When someone hears of a con man who has fooled dozens of people over the years, the first question is: "How could they have been so taken in?" Journalist and novelist Kirn (Thumbsucker; Up in the Air) is in an excellent position to answer this question: for over 15 years he was friendly with "Clark Rockefeller," a supposed scion of the Rockefeller family, who turned out to be Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, a German immigrant who lived under different identities for over 20 years. Their acquaintance started with Kirn delivering a rescued dog to his new owner and continued through their respective divorces, until a parental kidnapping charge brought Gerhartsreiter's impressive run to an end. Even worse, a brutal and callous murder committed in the 1970s could be traced back to one of Gerhartsreiter's early identities. Kirn reflects on this odd friendship as he watches the murder trial and concludes that proximity to the rich blinds people to nagging inconsistencies. Gerhartsreiter didn't need to fool him; he was already fooling himself. VERDICT This fascinating account from the perspective of a victim should appeal to readers of memoirs and true crime titles.—Deirdre Bray, Middletown P.L., OH
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781631490224
  • Publisher: Liveright Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 3/30/2015
  • Pages: 272

Meet the Author

Walter Kirn

Walter 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.

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