American Kingpin by Nick Bilton
The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road

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The cast of characters has been established over the years since Ulbricht’s arrest, but Bilton’s impressive reporting gives more space to a story that could use some sprawl.
-NY Times

Synopsis

The unbelievable true story of the man who built a billion-dollar online drug empire from his bedroom—and almost got away with it
 
In 2011, a twenty-six-year-old libertarian programmer named Ross Ulbricht launched the ultimate free market: the Silk Road, a clandestine Web site hosted on the Dark Web where anyone could trade anything—drugs, hacking software, forged passports, counterfeit cash, poisons—free of the government’s watchful eye.
 
It wasn’t long before the media got wind of the new Web site where anyone—not just teenagers and weed dealers but terrorists and black hat hackers—could buy and sell contraband detection-free. Spurred by a public outcry, the federal government launched an epic two-year manhunt for the site’s elusive proprietor, with no leads, no witnesses, and no clear jurisdiction. All the investigators knew was that whoever was running the site called himself the Dread Pirate Roberts.
 
The Silk Road quickly ballooned into $1.2 billion enterprise, and Ross embraced his new role as kingpin. He enlisted a loyal crew of allies in high and low places, all as addicted to the danger and thrill of running an illegal marketplace as their customers were to the heroin they sold. Through his network he got wind of the target on his back and took drastic steps to protect himself—including ordering a hit on a former employee. As Ross made plans to disappear forever, the Feds raced against the clock to catch a man they weren’t sure even existed, searching for a needle in the haystack of the global Internet.

Drawing on exclusive access to key players and two billion digital words and images Ross left behind, Vanity Fair correspondent and New York Times bestselling author Nick Bilton offers a tale filled with twists and turns, lucky breaks and unbelievable close calls. It’s a story of the boy next door’s ambition gone criminal, spurred on by the clash between the new world of libertarian-leaning, anonymous, decentralized Web advocates and the old world of government control, order, and the rule of law. Filled with unforgettable characters and capped by an astonishing climax, American Kingpin might be dismissed as too outrageous for fiction. But it’s all too real.
 

About Nick Bilton

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NICK BILTON is the lead technology writer for the New York Times Bits blog and a reporter for the paper. His work weaves together many different fields of storytelling, including advertising, journalism, design, technology, user interface, documentary film, and hardware hacking and the effects of all of these on society. At the Times, he is also worked in the research and development labs, peering into the future and helping chart the path for the future of news. Bilton is also an adjunct professor for New York University's interactive telecommunication program and speaks regularly around the world at major technology and publishing conferences and at universities.
 
Published May 2, 2017 by Portfolio. 343 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Crime. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for American Kingpin
All: 3 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Good
on Mar 07 2017

Bilton writes in a breezy, colloquial style, punctuated by occasional pulpy asides, and he aptly manages the technological arcana of this sprawling story. A fast-paced, readable true-crime tale that frames the likely future of the underground economy.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Nitasha Tiku on Jun 12 2017

The cast of characters has been established over the years since Ulbricht’s arrest, but Bilton’s impressive reporting gives more space to a story that could use some sprawl.

Read Full Review of American Kingpin: The Epic Hu... | See more reviews from NY Times

Globe and Mail

Good
Reviewed by Richard Poplak on May 26 2017

His latest book, which follows his similarly brisk, comprehensive history of Twitter, will surely emerge as the definitive account of the Silk Road saga.

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