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In 2011, a 26-year-old libertarian programmer named Ross Ulbricht launched the ultimate free market: the Silk Road, a clandestine website 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 website 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 a $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 best-selling 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.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Victor on 05-18-17
An honest portrait of DPR
Nick Bilton dives deep, veeery deep, into the life of Ross ulbricht and his creation: The Silk Road. The book is written like any fictional story with the only difference: it's all wierdly true. Nick Bilton has put so many hours research before writing this book I remember thinking "how the hell would he know this? I guess he must have made it up to make it sound better" while listening to it, but at the end you realize he probably didn't. A must read!
42 of 42 people found this review helpful
By Nicktirebiter on 05-07-17
Well written, Well read, Gripping story
Artfully written amazing story. Nick Bilton presents a story that competes with any fiction suspense thriller. And, of course it's actually true - something you have to keep reminding yourself as you listen to the book. Bilton perfectly combines his talent as a reporter with a genuine gift as a story teller - good cadence and a light but nice touch of drama.
36 of 37 people found this review helpful