This interview is part of an ongoing LARB A.V. series from this year’s LA Times Festival of Books. Go to the LARB A.V. homepage to see more interviews with T.C. Boyle, Daniel Handler, Mona Simpson, Leslie Jamison, Adrian Todd Zuniga and Terry McMillan, and keep checking in for upcoming interviews with Charlie LeDuff, Michelle Huneven, and many more.
In 1998, author Walter Kirn (Thumbsucker, Up in the Air) was persuaded to bring a sickly dog to its new owner in New York. The mysterious man at the end of the trip was named Clark Rockefeller, a man with a privileged background who dabbled in freelance central banking and classified military science experiments, and had houses next to Tony Bennett and J.D. Salinger. Kirn learned that this so-called Rockefeller (Christian Gerhartsreiter) was actually an impostor, a master con artist and a suspect in a murder, but not until over 10 years of knowing him and forging a strong friendship.
Kirn’s new true crime book Blood Will Out tells not just the too-good-to-be-true story of Clark Rockefeller, but also Kirn’s own story as the duped writer. He talks about first being drawn to Rockefeller (the alternative, says Kirn, would have been writerly “malpractice”), about Rockefeller’s own penchant for spinning tales, and about the feelings he had when he realized that, though he had been betrayed, he had a treasure trove of stories at his feet.