Walter Kirn ’83 (Beowulf Sheehan)

Walter Kirn by Beowulf Sheehan
Walter Kirn ’83 (Beowulf Sheehan)

Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade, by Walter Kirn  ’83 (Liveright)

The author: Kirn is a novelist and journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times MagazineThe New York Times Book ReviewGQVogueNew York, and Esquire. Two of his novels, Thumbsucker and Up in the Air, have been adapted into films.

The book: One fateful summer, Kirn, a writer looking for inspiration, found himself driving from Montana to New York City to deliver a crippled hunting dog to her new owner in New York. From this errand grew a 15-year-long friendship between the author and Clark Rockefeller, a self-proclaimed banker and art collector who ultimately would be revealed as an imposter, kidnapper, and murderer. This story of a real-life Mr. Ripley examines the relationship between the author and the con man, causing Kirn to confront some hard questions about his own susceptibility to Rockefeller’s ruse in the process.

Opening lines: “It felt like a noble gesture at the time, and I was in the mood for an adventure. The summer my wife was pregnant with our first child and President Clinton was slipping toward impeachment, I volunteered to drive a crippled dog from my home in Montana, where it was being cared for by patrons of our local Humane Society, to the New York City apartment of a rich young man, a Rockefeller, who had adopted it on the Internet.”

Reviews: Publishers Weekly wrote, “Kirn’s candor, ear for dialogue, and crisp prose make for a masterful true crime narrative that is impossible to put down.” Booklist called the tale “fascinating. … Kirn’s reflecting, musing, and personal dealings add a killer punch to this true-crime memoir.”