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Home » Books » Nonfiction » Crime » Murder » Serial Killers

True Story

By Michael Finkel

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Format: Paperback, 336 pages
Published In: United Kingdom, 01 May 2006
Michael Finkel was a top New York Times Magazine journalist publicly fired and disgraced for making up a composite character for a big investigative news piece about Africa. This book is about how this brilliant, hardliving, high achieving journalist found himself at that point in his life; but in parallel it's also about Christian Longo, a man accused of the multiple murder of his own wife and 3 children (their bodies were found in Oregon waterways, the largest and the smallest in suitcases), who then passed himself off as Michael Finkel, NY journalist, while on the run in Mexico. These two weird stories come together as Finkel in turn becomes fascinated (obsessed, even) with Longo the accused murderer, who while in prison would talk only to Finkel. Who is using whom? It's all about truth and lies, and where journalistic truth deviates from reality; and about lives that take a wrong turning. It's very well written, disturbing in many ways and utterly gripping. There is an acknowledged moral ambiguity about the whole venture which makes it problematic but even more interesting- And in April 2003 Longo, who had pleaded guilty only to 2 counts of murder, was sentenced to death for a

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Brilliant journalism meets true crime in the heart of America - now a major film starring James Franco, Jonah Hill and Felicity Jones, directed by Rupert Goold.

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About the Author

A young journalist in his mid-thirties who raises chickens and grows hay at his home in Montana. He had a highflying job on the New York Times Magazine until he was publicly fired in February 2002. He was married at the end of July 2004.

Reviews

Truth is most assuredly stranger than fiction. A week after Finkel was fired from the New York Times for writing a partially fictionalized Magazine cover story, he learned that Christian Longo, who fled Oregon upon murdering his wife and three children, had been telling acquaintances that he was Michael Finkel from the New York Times. In a surreal plot twist, the two men established a bond through a series of letters, prison visits, and phone calls. Finkel interweaves Longo's story with that of his own career and public disgrace at the Times, contrasting the murderer's pathological lies with his own act of fictionalization to stunning effect. Finkel's insider information and unique perspective make this book preferable to Carlton Smith's Love, Daddy, and the perspective of the disgraced author is a compelling addition. Essential for regional collections and a good choice for all public and academic libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 1/05.]-Deirdre Bray Root, Middletown P.L., OH Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

"Its a gripping tale, plainly told but artfully constructed, and the twists continue right up to and beyond the climax of the trial" -- Blake Morrison Guardian "A thrilling, unforgettable book... Wonderful" Spectator "An absorbing examination of human frailty, the nature of truth and the power of pride... It is also a stonking good read... Extraordinary and terrifying journalism" The Times "A fine, beautifully choreographed addition to the macabre three-legged race linking murderers with writers... Horribly readable" Mail on Sunday "'Utterly compelling'" Irish Times

In 2001, Finkel fabricated portions of an article he wrote for the New York Times Magazine. Caught and fired, he retreated to his Montana home, only to learn that a recently arrested suspected mass murderer had adopted his identity while on the run in Mexico. In this astute and hypnotically absorbing memoir, Finkel recounts his subsequent relationship with the accused, Christian Longo, and recreates not only Longo's crimes and coverups but also his own. In doing so, he offers a startling meditation on truth and deceit and the ease with which we can slip from one to the other. The narrative consists of three expertly interwoven strands. One details the decision by Finkel, under severe pressure, to lie within the Times article ironic since the piece aimed to debunk falsehoods about rampant slavery in Africa's chocolate trade and explores the personal consequences (loss of credibility, ensuing despair) of that decision. The second, longer strand traces Longo's life, marked by incessant lying and petty cheating, and the events leading up to the slayings of his wife and children. The third narrative strand covers Finkel's increasingly involved ties to Longo, as the two share confidences (and also lies of omission and commission) via meetings, phone calls and hundreds of pages of letters, leading up to Longo's trial and a final flurry of deceit by which Longo attempts to offload his guilt. Many will compare this mea culpa to those of Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass, but where those disgraced journalists led readers into halls of mirrors, Finkel's creation is all windows. There are, notably, no excuses offered, only explanations, and there's no fuzzy boundary between truth and deceit: a lie is a lie. Because of Finkel's past transgression, it's understandable that some will question if all that's here is true; only Finkel can know for sure, but there's a burning sincerity (and beautifully modulated writing) on every page, sufficient to convince most that this brilliant blend of true-crime and memoir does live up to its bald title. 4-city author tour. (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

EAN: 9780099464570
ISBN: 0099464578
Publisher: Vintage
Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.9 x 2.1 centimetres (0.22 kg)
Age Range: 15+ years
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