Blood Will Out (Paperback)

The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade

By Walter Kirn

Liveright Publishing Corporation, 9781631490224, 272pp.

Publication Date: March 30, 2015

Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover (3/10/2014)
Compact Disc (12/1/2015)
Hardcover, Large Print (8/6/2014)
Compact Disc (12/1/2015)
MP3 CD (12/1/2015)

List Price: 15.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.

March 2014 Indie Next List

“More memoir than true crime tell-all, Blood Will Out parses the convoluted relationship between writer Kirn and his Rockefeller friend, Clark, who turns out not to be a Rockefeller at all; instead, he's a serial impostor, a murderous sociopath, and a con man of the highest order. Kirn unflinchingly reveals his own ambition, desperation, and fixation with wealth and social status that derail his shrewd writer's instinct and allow him to be bamboozled, even as Clark's mask slips. A blistering character study of both murderer and writer, Blood Will Out sounds an alarm about the way our own flaws compel us to see what we most desire to see and the grave danger that might put us in.”
— Susan Gusho, Watermark Books, Wichita, KS
View the List


In the summer of 1998, Walter Kirn--then an aspiring novelist struggling with impending fatherhood and a dissolving marriage--set out on a peculiar, fateful errand: to personally deliver a crippled hunting dog from his home in Montana to the New York apartment of one Clark Rockefeller, a secretive young banker and art collector who had adopted the dog over the Internet. Thus began a fifteen-year relationship that drew Kirn deep into the fun-house world of an outlandish, eccentric son of privilege who ultimately would be unmasked as a brazen serial impostor, child kidnapper, and brutal murderer.

Kirn's one-of-a-kind story of being duped by a real-life Mr. Ripley takes us on a bizarre and haunting journey from the posh private clubrooms of Manhattan to the hard-boiled courtrooms and prisons of Los Angeles. As Kirn uncovers the truth about his friend, a psychopath masquerading as a gentleman, he also confronts hard truths about himself. Why, as a writer of fiction, was he susceptible to the deception of a sinister fantasist whose crimes, Kirn learns, were based on books and movies? What are the hidden psychological links between the artist and the con man? To answer these and other questions, Kirn attends his old friend's murder trial and uses it as an occasion to reflect on both their tangled personal relationship and the surprising literary sources of Rockefeller's evil. This investigation of the past climaxes in a tense jailhouse reunion with a man whom Kirn realizes he barely knew--a predatory, sophisticated genius whose life, in some respects, parallels his own and who may have intended to take another victim during his years as a fugitive from justice: Kirn himself.

Combining confessional memoir, true crime reporting, and cultural speculation, Blood Will Out is a Dreiser-esque tale of self-invention, upward mobility, and intellectual arrogance. It exposes the layers of longing and corruption, ambition and self-delusion beneath the Great American con.

Conversation Starters from

  1. Do you think there is anything beneath Clark’s ever-shifting façades? Does Clark have a genuine “personality?"generic viagra price canada
  2. How does Clark’s life, which is built around the telling of lies, differ from the author’s life as a novelist?generic viagra price canada
  3. On page 61 the author writes, “‘You can’t cheat an honest man,’ goes the old saying, the notion being that falling for a charlatan requires moral softness in the victim.” Do you think there is a tacit complicity between con and mark?generic viagra price canada
  4. How do various locales inform the narrative? What does the American West, New York City, or Hollywood represent to Clark and the author?generic viagra price canada
  5. How do literature and the media influence Clark’s invented personalities? Do you think our general saturation in pop culture helped or hurt his attempts at hoodwinking others?generic viagra price canada
  6. Did the fact that Clark pretended to be a member of one of America’s wealthiest families make his ruse more believable? Are Americans blinded by wealth, or would he have been just as successful pretending to be a member of the middle class?generic viagra price canada
  7. How does Clark’s proposal of the theory (on page 142) that reality is a “computer program” and life is “an illusion” aid him in his schemes?generic viagra price canada
  8. Clark is constantly performing an act for those around him. In what ways is the author playing a part? Is he ever aware of his role?generic viagra price canada
  9. The author says that Clark “spoke from inside my own American mind.” How was Christian Gerhartsreiter able to manipulate Americans through his position as a secret outsider?generic viagra price canada
  10. Clark tells Walter that the key to manipulating people is “Vanity, vanity, vanity.” Can you think of some examples where this is true in the book?generic viagra price canada
  11. How does the author’s story of the time he got lost in the woods during a snowstorm inform his relationship with Clark?generic viagra price canada
  12. What methods does Clark use to take advantage of the idea of “Faith in strangers, rewarded in full measure?”generic viagra price canada
  13. Do you think it’s possible for Clark to feel remorse?generic viagra price canada
  14. Do you think Clark would have fooled you if you’d come across him?generic viagra price canada

Coverage from NPR