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American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road

by Nick Bilton

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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5622243,627 (4.29)6
Biography & Autobiography. Business. True Crime. Nonfiction. HTML:NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER. 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.
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» See also 6 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
Good story, but the writing was a bit too choppy, Dragnet style, for me, and over the length of the book, it started feeling more like a list of facts than a book. ( )
  danielskatz | Dec 26, 2023 |
Really well-done true crime story. Bilton get is inside the heads of the key figures in the Silk Road story. ( )
  decaturmamaof2 | Nov 22, 2023 |
First time that I listened to a non-fiction audiobook. This was so well written that at times I had to remind myself that it's a true story and not a piece of fiction. This book was definitely riveting and I couldn't wait to listen to the next chapter. ( )
  BluezReader | Nov 12, 2023 |
A quick read and a very good thriller based on the real story of the Silk Road. Really enjoyed it. ( )
  Santhosh_Guru | Oct 19, 2023 |
Informative in a way but not what i expected. Guess i had my hopes a little too high ( )
  NG_YbL | Jul 12, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Nick Biltonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Damron, WillNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lagin, DanielDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Michel, ChristopherAuthor photographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sergio, ChristopherCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
No man, for any considerable period,
can wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude,
without finally getting bewildered as to which may be true.

-- Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter
I did it for me.
I liked it.
I was good at it.
And I was really . . . I was alive.

-- Walter White, aka Heisenberg, Breaking Bad
Dedication
For my wife, Chrysta, and our sons, Somerset and Emerson.
I love all of you better than anyone in this big, big world.
First words
Pink. A tiny pink pill with an etching of a squirrel on either side.
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Biography & Autobiography. Business. True Crime. Nonfiction. HTML:NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER. 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.

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