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Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade Hardcover – March 10, 2014

3.3 out of 5 stars 283 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, March 2014: An epigraph from Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley says much about what’s to come in Walter Kirn’s remarkable confessional: “He was versatile, and the world was wide!” When Kirn first met Clark Rockefeller, he was smitten by the man’s wealth and eccentricities. Coming off a failed marriage (to the daughter of Thomas McGuane and Margot Kidder), Kirn was a bit of a wreck, as was Rockefeller. The two men were drawn to each other. As the friendship progressed--into some uneasy terrain--Kirn ignored the clues “spread out for [him] to read,” and plowed ahead to become a confidant and enabler. Except, it turns out, Clark wasn’t a Rockefeller at all. Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter was, as Kirn puts it, “the most prodigious serial imposter in recent history.” He was also a murderer. So what did that make Kirn? “A fool,” he admits, “a stubborn fool.” This is a compulsively readable, can’t-look-away book and, ultimately, a brave piece of work. Kirn has laid himself bare: his failed marriage, his Ritalin reliance, his misguided allegiance to a sociopath. In exposing his own “ignorance and vanity,” what Kirn has really crafted here is the story of a bamboozled writer who for fifteen years ignored the big story right under his nose; who, in trusting his imposter friend, “violated my storyteller’s oath.” With Blood Will Out, Kirn has impressively restored his storyteller’s credentials. --Neal Thompson

From Booklist

In The Journalist and the Murderer (1990), Janet Malcolm dissected journalist-subject dynamics. Here Kirn also covers that subject, but in the highly personal story of his being hoodwinked, professionally and emotionally, by a man he knew as Clark Rockefeller, a member of of the famously wealthy industrial, political, and banking family. Over the years, their often long-distance friendship faltered in suspicious ways, yet Kirn kept up hope, naively perhaps, considering the flaws and untruths he uncovered, disturbing occurrences Kirn chose to ignore. But when Kirn woke one morning to discover that his friend Clark was not even Clark, much less a Rockefeller, and going to be tried for a murder committed years ago, he decided to finally write about their relationship, questioning along the way journalistic integrity and the encounters between the subject and the writer. This tale’s a fascinating one (starting with Kirn’s road trip with a paralyzed dog) that is covered elsewhere (Mark Seal’s The Man in the Rockefeller Suit, 2011), but Kirn’s reflecting, musing, and personal dealings add a killer punch to this true-crime memoir. --Eloise Kinney
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Liveright; 1 edition (March 10, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871404516
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871404510
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (283 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #487,591 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I bought this book after hearing Walter Kirn interviewed on NPR's "Fresh Air." I was looking forward to an in-depth look at someone with a serious personality disorder and worldview deeply out of step with reality. I expected this to be about the subject's issues; I did not expect the author's neuroses and self-absorption completely overshadow the murderer. I am not at all surprised Walter Kirn was taken in by "Clark Rockefeller", as Mr. Kirn's exceptional cluelessness seems to beg to be taken advantage of. My goodness, he graduated from Princeton but my goodness, he did not fit in, but in case you forget, he graduated from Princeton and my goodness, has rubbed shoulders with ALL SORTS OF WEALTHY PEOPLE. Golly gee whiz! It's no wonder he falls for the extremely unlikely circumstances in his VERY FIRST CONVERSATION with "Clark Rockefeller"-- but not surprising to this reader. And it just gets worse from there. (But oh, the author mentions AGAIN he graduated from Princeton.)

The first chapter, of the bringing of a seriously disabled dog via pick-up truck 2000 miles from Montana to New York City, was excruciating for this reader: did it never occur to him that a dog with a spinal injury might have issues with urination and defecation? And did it never occur to him that long-distance driving with such an animal might be challenging? But thankfully, his mother comes to his rescue and....

Even if you really, really really think there's more in this than you can get out of a Wikipedia article, rest assured, you'll find plenty of copies remaindered, at used book sales, and in the free bin at your local library. I feel terribly misled by NPR's interview, and I'm sorry I spent the money on a hardback copy of this book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was so looking forward to reading this story. I mean, what an absolutely fascinating tale. How did this man get away with deluding everyone for so long? Why did he start? Why did he commit murder? Unfortunately, the author makes this book all about himself rather than his subject. If you want to read about Walter Kirn's troubles with drugs and wives and insecurity, you'll be happy enough. However, if you were hoping to read about the con artist/kidnapper/murderer you may have thought this book was about, you will be disappointed. I started getting disillusioned about halfway through, and was just plain irritated when I finished. Shame on this self-indulgent, narcissistic author.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Some of the negative reviews of this book have commented that it is more about Kirn than Rockefeller. There is some truth to this. However, it would be more accurate to say that it was more about their relationship than Rockefeller. Also, what would be the point of writing a straightforward book about Rockefeller himself? This has already been done on multiple occasions and by Kirn's own acknowledgement, done quite well. The book was written specifically because of Kirn's unique interactions with him. I also think that Kirn himself comes off somewhat badly in the book in terms of what his "friendship" with Rockefeller says about Kirn himself and I have little doubt that but for Rockefeller's supposed last name, the "friendship" would never have lasted. Of course, in fairness, Kirn is hardly self-exculpatory about his actions--to the contrary, he is extremely hard on himself about it.

I would have given the book 5 stars just because I think that Kirn is such a wonderful writer and has such incredible powers of observation and analysis. There were a few things that bothered me however, which, cumulatively, added up to the loss of a star. First, as a few others have noted, the book is like a chronological pinball--it bounces all over the place. Forwards, backwards, forwards again, endlessly. To some extent, I see the reason for this, because it is in part about reflection on the past and it was never intended as a straight-ahead murder mystery. Still, I thought it was a bit excessive. Second, I didn't really like the way Kirn went into fairly detailed plot summaries of movie after movie after movie (with a few tv shows and books thrown in for good measure). I felt that the book dragged at these points.
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Format: Hardcover
While the story of "Clark Rockefeller" is an interesting one, it would be much better suited in a Wikipedia article.
The story opens with Kirn's happy-go-lucky 90's life, married to the teenage daughter of a writer and a movie star, being interrupted by a phone call from Rockefeller, prompting him to go on an adventure back East with a disabled dog who, although the audience feels sympathy for, Walter sees as an obstacle to overcome to get to his prize: an in with a high-society Rockefeller. With Kirn assuming that this would be the low point of the story(while really, it was the highest), he adds in a few dozen anecdotes about his time at Princeton, his Ritalin abuse, and his clulessness about absolutely everything(which, I will admit, had me doubting the reality of my knowledge). He eventually gets sick of letting the dog out of his pick-up to piss every hour, the process of which is described in great detail, and calls up his mom to get him and the dog on a plane, which was strictly against Clark's instructions. In spite of this, when Walt lands, Clark is there to meet him and pays him $500 for the job. With Kirn wanting more, he becomes the socialite's friend. That is where the plot ends. The next ten chapters are the court case and more existential pondering about himself, Clark, and his own general stupidity.
This book was a huge let down. Advertises itself as a thriller novel, I expected some form of horror, some recollection of a time when he was at his weakest and Clark could have killed him whenever he liked. Alas, that was not present, and the book lacked any form of plot. It laces facts with Kirn's thoughts.
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