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.