This is a true account of a man who was one of many to be swindled by a murderous psychopath. Journalist Walter Kirn, under some bizarre circumstances, meets and befriends Clark Rockefeller, of the Rockefellers. The two continue a correspondence over many years, during which time Rockefeller regales Kirn with his various monetary exploits and awkward character tics. It eventually comes out that Clark Rockefeller is only an assumed identity, and that the man behind the masquerade is not an eccentric bajillionaire, but a ruthless killer.
This is one of those books that everyone seems to love, and I am left wondering what all of the fuss is about. Clark Rockefeller’s tale is certainly a compelling one, but it is severely watered down by Kirn’s insistence on injecting himself into the drama. I understand that Kirn actually knew the guy, and he is clearly excited to let the world know all about it. However, his narrative voice loses steam early on, leaving what should have been a spellbinding story to feel dry and confusing.
Kirn’s primary lament is that he himself was duped by Rockefeller. He whines about it repeatedly throughout the book, and this inflated sense of intellect makes it increasing difficult to like or even respect Kirn as the protagonist that he portrays himself to be.
Had Kirn took on an outsider’s perspective and focused solely on Rockefeller’s story, this could have been a fascinating book. Instead, it was often boring and self-reflective. These are fine things for a personal diary, but Kirn’s decision to focus on his own role in this drama instead of that of Rockefeller forced a sociopath into a secondary role so that he [Kirn] could moan about his self doubts.