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Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade Hardcover – March 10, 2014
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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
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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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. Finally, he has an odd capacity for simultaneous self-flagellation and self-congratulation. For every time he has one of this "how could I be so stupid as to be sucked in by this guy" moments, there is another where he reminds us (and possibly himself) of his gilded resume, including Princeton (seemingly 1000 mentions), Oxford (ditto), being a published novelist whose books have been made into movies, a magazine cover story writer, etc. etc. I understand the desire to point out this odd juxtaposition at least once but it seems that he did so repeatedly. Still, on balance, I certainly recommend the book.
I wish there had been more about Sandra Boss. I am hoping she will write a memoir of her nightmare with Chichester-Baronet XIII/Gehartstreiter/Smith/Rockefeller/etc etc. It would be a great cautionary tale for a lot of women who get fooled by con artists, which we now call Love Fraud.
Most recent customer reviews
I became familiar with Walter Kirn on the Greg Gutfeld show on Fox News Channel.Read more