Citizen K: The Deeply Weird American Journey of Brett Kimberlin
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Citizen K: The Deeply Weird American Journey of Brett Kimberlin [Hardcover]

Mark Singer
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews Review

This book relates a journalist's worst nightmare: of getting deeply involved in a "big story" based on information from a single source who turns out to be a world-class liar. During the 1992 Presidential campaign Singer wrote a story for the New Yorker about the allegations by Brett Kimberlin, a former marijuana dealer then in prison for a series of bombings, that he had once sold marijuana to Vice President Dan Quayle. (The cartoonist Garry Trudeau was another journalist who pushed this story hard.) After signing a book contract to expand the story, Singer invested more and more time,and became frustrated by holes, inconsistencies and dead ends in Kimberlin's tale. Embroiled in a Kafkaesque mystery, Singer recounts his painstaking journalistic detective work, and his growing sense that this would be the story that got away.

From Publishers Weekly

After Garry Trudeau in "Doonesbury," the New Yorker's Mark Singer was possibly the most prominent journalist to sympathetically report allegations that convict Brett Kimberlin had sold marijuana to Dan Quayle when the Vice-President was a law student. Indeed, Singer signed a contract with Kimberlin to write a book, but Kimberlin turns out to be a top-flight con man?as the author reveals with dismay and near admiration. So this picaresque detective story has a mea culpa at its heart, an effort to explain how certain things?such as former Harvard Law dean Erwin Griswold's support for Kimberlin's court appeal and Kimberlin's muzzling by federal officials?helped build an edifice of sand. Singer conscientiously reconstructs Kimberlin's history of crime?he was a drug smuggler and, mostly likely, the man behind some vicious bombings in Indianapolis. Some of this narrative gets tedious, yet it's part of Singer's effort to contrast facts with Kimberlin's confident but "apparitional" explanations. Leavening the story are Singer's tales of Kimberlin's charmed life behind bars: he wangled unlimited long-distance phone service, became the jailhouse lawyer for numerous Mafiosi and snared an impressive legal support group. Now free, the former dope smuggler helps ship commodities to Ukraine; but when Kimberlin (with Singer in tow) had a chance to meet Quayle at a book signing, he refused to confront him. Quayle, it now seems, deserves apologies. 50,000 first printing.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

New Yorker staff writer Singer (Funny Money, Knopf, 1985) tells the story of Brett Kimberlin, a self-promoting Midwestern boy in a hurry. While still in his teens he was part-owner of a legitimate Indianapolis business and launching a more lucrative career dealing tons of marijuana, some of which in 1988 he claimed to have sold to vice presidential candidate Dan Quayle. An uncharged suspect in a murder case but convicted in a series of bombings, Kimberlin became an indefatigable jailhouse lawyer whose "political prisoner" suit against the Bureau of Prisons was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. He is now, by outward appearance, a successful businessman. Weird but, unsettlingly, not as weird as the subtitle suggests, because Kimberlin comes off as a fairly typical hustler who learned how to con long before he became a convict. For larger crime collections.
Jim G. Burns, Ottumwa, Iowa
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

An absorbing investigation into the life and tall tales of Brett Kimberlin, the jailed drug dealer who won brief notoriety by claiming to have sold drugs to Dan Quayle. At first glance, Citizen K would seem to have little going for it: a subject who would hardly seem to deserve such attention and an author (Funny Money, 1985, etc.) who now seems bent on excusing himself for an overly sympathetic (and much criticized) 1992 profile of Kimberlin in the New Yorker. But this examination exonerates itself early and thoroughly. Kimberlin, an intellectually gifted and cunning drug dealer, jailhouse lawyer, and liar, turns out to be an intriguing figure. From his drug abusing early days to his eventual arrest and conviction as the figure responsible for a series of baffling bombings in Indiana, Kimberlin's criminal exploits are recounted in fast-paced, engaging prose. Most readers will be eager for the chapters on Kimberlin's claims about Quayle (he insisted that Quayle, when in law school, had regularly bought marijuana from him), and Singer does not disappoint. Through dogged reporting and with a healthy skepticism, Singer sorts through the conflicting accounts and reveals a man whose idea of the truth is utterly malleable. Kimberlin, it becomes clear, never encountered a situation that he couldn't somehow exploit for gain. Mindful of his early role in promoting Kimberlin's claims about Quayle, Singer is full of contrition, presenting himself as having been sucked into Kimberlin's ``narcissistic universe, a place far beyond the gravity-bound realities of politics, truth, and justice.'' But instead of drowning in regret, the repentant author turns his book into a lively revenge tale. In the delightful final chapters he cleverly tricks Kimberlin into exposing his own mendacity. For politicos, journalists, or anyone who has ever been pulled into the distorted worldview of a dangerous smooth talker, the story of Brett Kimberlin is a valuable one, expertly unearthed and reported by Singer. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.


... evokes comparisons with two books with similar plot lines: Joe Gould's Secret by Joseph Mitchell, and Fatal Vision by Joe McGinniss ... Singer is a better writer than Joe McGinniss and can play in the same league as Joseph Mitchell. -- The New York Times Book Review, Ben Yagoda

From the Inside Flap

From the author of the bestselling Funny Money, the saga of a master drug smuggler, convicted bomber, suspected murderer, jailhouse lawyer, and media manipulator, whose story about supplying marijuana to a future vice president is only the beginning. This is a portrait of an elusive man and a social history that crisscrosses the republic over the past three decades. National ads/media.
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