American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road Paperback – May 29, 2018
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—The Globe and Mail
“I dare you not to read this book in one sitting. Masterfully reported and written, Bilton’s book drops you hard into the dark heart of the most famous Internet crime to date. A first-rate thrill.”
—JOSHUA COOPER RAMO, author of The Seventh Sense
“Nick Bilton has issued a fantastic modern true-crime thriller. The book moves at a stunning pace while packed full of exquisite reporting and detail. It delivers a vivid picture of what happens when genius, ambition, and depravity collide, as well as a study on the complex interplay between good and evil.”
—ASHLEE VANCE, author of Elon Musk
“Engrossing, addictive, suspenseful, riveting—this book hooked me on page one and I could not put it down. American Kingpin is the best thing I’ve read in ages. I can’t recommend it highly enough.”
—DAN LYONS, author of Disrupted
“In American Kingpin, Nick Bilton again proves why he’s one of tech’s best storytellers with a stunningly researched and very scary portrait of the creator of a marketplace gone mad, and the oddly uncoordinated officers who took him down.”
—STEVEN LEVY, author of Hackers and In the Plex
“You’ll never forget Bilton’s portrait of the brilliant and brazen Ross Ulbricht, even after you sacrifice sleep in a sprint to the final pages and to see justice served.”
—BRAD STONE, author of The Everything Store and The Upstarts
“A rollicking, deftly reported tale of the Dark Web. I couldn’t put it down.”
—CLIVE THOMPSON, author of Smarter Than You Think
“Bilton’s investigation of the Silk Road is dramatic and, at times, nearly unbelievable. It puts your favorite thriller novels to shame.”
—STEVEN PRESSFIELD, author of Gates of Fire
“Nick Bilton is the only writer who could tell this suspenseful story. American Kingpin is engrossing at every turn, right up to its pulse-racing ending.”
—ADAM LASHINSKY, author of Wild Ride
“American Kingpin is both a staggering feat of investigative journalism and a triumph of edge-of-your-seat storytelling. This is what true-crime writing should be.”
—BRYAN BURROUGH, author of Days of Rage
"A fast-paced, readable true-crime tale that frames the likely future of the underground economy."
About the Author
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Bilton takes a balanced reporting perspective and describes both the highs and lows of the building and ultimate downfall of the Silk Road as well as the investigative efforts that brought it down.
Probably the most striking element is the number of small mistakes that lead to setbacks and victories on both sides of this cat and mouse game.
I would say one place some may disagree with the author is in what to include and what to leave out. In any writing that is the challenge the author faces. I am satisfied with his decisions but others may not be.
This is a well written book that will fill in many of the holes left by other sources.
The Silk Road website was a one-stop shop for illegal drugs. In just the first year's existence sales exceeded $500,000. But wait! A few months later it was $500,000 in weekly sales with commission sales into Ross's pocket averaging $10,000 daily, and rising. Ross became The Pirate in American Kingpin.
Silk road even evolved into selling body parts where bone marrow would fetch $23,000 a gram, $150,000 for a good liver but the drug network was the vast force and the Drug Enforcement Administration would direct attention and resources into government focus. The FBI has Ross and the Silk Road under intense alert.
The importance of Ross Ulbricht is perhaps exemplified during his arrest when nearly thirty FBI agents swarmed from every direction for the event. The FBI charged that the website of Ross Ulbricht had trafficked $1.2 billion in drugs, weapons and poisons. Silk Road reportedly had hundreds of million dollars in sales. In 2015 Ross was sentenced to life in prison. In that year the CDC reported that more people died from drug overdoses than from gun deaths and that on-line drug buying remains a prosperity unaffected by the destiny of Ross Ulbricht or Silk Road.
This was an engrossing read. It is so well-written that I didn't want to put it down. It reminded me of the old Batman TV show from the '60s - how are they going to get out of this one?!? Ross dodged bullets in the form of investigations by no less than four different government agencies. On the other hand, I wondered how on Earth the likes of the FBI (the 'feebs') could possibly catch him since the TOR browser and Bitcoin are completely anonymous.
The individual stories are fascinating also; from Ross himself (The Dread Pirate Roberts) to interesting profiles of a handful of the government agents trying to catch him. Sometimes you would start to feel bad for Ross, but then he'd do something awful like order a hit.
I can't recommend this book highly enough. It is thorough, easy to read, and suspenseful. Too often, non-fiction writers forget that even non-fiction can be suspenseful and engaging. Not this time.
The story is well told. It grabs you, draws you in and you just can't set it down.
It’s the tale about a bright Texas college kid, let astray by an ideology that sees all things government as a the enemy of private freedom and initiative. He is particularly against government regulation of drug consumption, which he believes should be everybody’s individual right to decide. In this pretext he builds an online drug market on the Dark Web right at a time where bitcoins get established. The web site grows like crazy and bitcoins worth million of dollars start to roll in. And so does the moral decline of the young Texan.
The Dark Web is the perfect operation platform for the dark dark side of mankind.
A fifth star would be earned by including the rest of the story. It seems like the last third is rushed, lacking the fullness of the first two. I'm left feeling unsatisfied but not disappointed.
Top international reviews
This is a page turner and a wonderful story which kept me fascinated right to the obvious final conclusion which you know is coming but just have to watch unfold in all of its rich details. A great book!
It's an easy read as well, very interesting and I raced through it.
Only bad point....It appears to have been very well researched but Bilton (the author) must be adding bits here and there for effect - considering he never interviewed Ross and others - which kind of makes it a bit less factual in parts, but it does add a bit more drama and I didn't mind that.
Cyberspace detectives hunt down modern day Pimpernel.