The improbable but true story of a man accused of murdering his entire family and the journalist he impersonated while on the run
In 2001, Mike Finkel was on top of the world: young, talented, and recently promoted to a plum job at the New York Times Magazine. Then he made an irremediable slip: Under extraordinary pressure to keep producing blockbuster stories, he fabricated parts of an article. Caught and excommunicated from the Times, he retreated to his home in Montana, swearing off any contact with the media. When the phone rang, though, he couldn’t resist. At the other end was a reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle, whom Finkel congratulated on being the first in what was sure to be a long and bloodthirsty line of media watchdogs. The reporter was puzzled.
In Waldport, Oregon, Christian Longo had killed his young wife and three children and dumped their bodies into the bay. With a stolen credit card, he fled south, making his way to Cancun, where he lived for several weeks under an assumed identity: Michael Finkel, journalist for the New York Times.
True Story is the tale of a bizarre and convoluted collision between fact and fiction, and a meditation on the slippery nature of truth. When Finkel contacts Longo in jail, the two men begin a close and complex relationship. Over the course of a year, they exchange long letters and weekly phone calls, playing out a cat-and-mouse game in which it’s never quite clear if the pursuer is Finkel or Longo—or both. Finkel’s dogged pursuit of the true story pays off only at the end, in the gripping trial scenes in which Longo, after a lifetime of deception, finally tells the whole truth. Or so he says.
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.
Amazing Book!! Highly Recommend!
This book is beautifully written. It grabs your attention instantly. The words are superbly chosen and placed, the description is super rich, and the overall feel of this book is quite different (in a good way).
Simply remarkable !!