Sunday, February 18, 2018

Blood Will Out (2014)

Novelist, critic, and essayist Walter Kirn's pained recollections of his friendship with the serial imposter "Clark Rockefeller," who was later found out and ultimately convicted of homicide, is most interesting to me for showing ways that victims in such crimes collaborate in being fooled. Kirn has much sympathy for these victims, being one himself, and it is actually a good bit more than just a convenient extension of self-pity. The case reminds me a little of a similar situation, though far less intense, that I saw with a friend in college. This friend, who I will call "Gus," was from South Dakota but had convinced all of us he was a wealthy UK citizen, mainly by speaking with a loose mid-Atlantic accent like Cary Grant and salting his conversation with British terms such as "bonnet" for the hood of a car. We wanted, some of us more than others, to have a British friend—we willingly and unconsciously filled in the gaps and discrepancies ourselves to cover for the anomalies of Gus's stories, without thinking about it too much. Kirn spends a lot of time in this book kicking himself for being so easily fooled. He sees now all the things he thinks he should have then, or could have, and is often bitterly rueful. He still has fits of pique and nurses (completely understandable) fantasies of vengeance. Rockefeller, of course, was not a Rockefeller as he claimed, but rather a German national named Christian Gerhartsreiter. Blood Will Out uses Gerhartsreiter's trial for murder in 2012 as a springboard for Kirn's memories of the friendship and his general anguish. I probably would have liked it more if I knew more about either Kirn or the Clark Rockefeller case. There's enough here to make me think about looking into one of the more comprehensive books about Gerhartsreiter's strange career. As for Kirn, I'm not sure how I missed him. He's from Minnesota and has written many novels, including Up in the Air, which became a George Clooney movie I've never seen. I guess you just miss some things. Overall Blood Will Out is a pretty good book, searching and honest about the capacity for self-delusion, with an interesting case at its center.

In case it's not at the library.


  1. The faux British friend thing is classic. Love that story.

  2. After he'd been found out, I asked him once how long his ruse had gone on. He answered two years, 10 months, and an exact number of days.