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  • American Kingpin

  • The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road
  • Written by: Nick Bilton
  • Narrated by: Will Damron
  • Length: 12 hrs and 14 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (436 ratings)

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American Kingpin

Written by: Nick Bilton
Narrated by: Will Damron
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Publisher's Summary

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 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.

©2017 Nick Bilton (P)2017 Penguin Audio

What the critics say

“An astonishingly well-researched narrative.... Bilton's storytelling bears not so much as a trace of fat; the book he's conjured is so sharp and bright that it can be whipped through in the airport lounge before the flight takes off." (The Globe and Mail)

"Unbelievably riveting." (Casey Neistat) 

“I dare you not to read this book in one sitting. Masterfully reported and written, Bilton’s book drops you hard into the dark heart of the most famous Internet crime to date. A first-rate thrill.” (Joshua Cooper Ramo, author of The Seventh Sense

What listeners say about American Kingpin

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great if you love true crime.

The author has a great way of telling Ross' Ambitions and how he went around dealing with the anxiety of getting caught. Very relatable storytelling.

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  • AH
  • 2021-03-27

Listened to the entire thing in one sitting

I was vaguely familiar with Ross Ulbricht from listening to a few podcasts about the Silk Road, but this book goes into great detail about it. Crazy story. I started listening first thing in the morning and couldn't stop listening. Usually audiobooks have a hard time maintaining my attention, but the combination of the story and the narration was perfect. Highly recommended.

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  • DRB
  • 2020-08-24

Conceptually it needs to be respected

At one point an FBI officer comments that terrorists no longer need to bring weapons into the U.S. / Canada, they can now enter the country and buy what they need on-line from within - that's a scary possibility. Weak narration.

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Fantastic from start to finish

Listened to it in 2 days, couldn't push pause. Great reporting all around, very well written.

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1 of the best written and read book I read this yr

Love it so much, highly recommend it. listening to it felt like I was watching an action movie.

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Great

This was awesome all around. 10/10 would recommend. Wish it kept going longer lol.

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loved it

It was such a good book, totally fascinating. I wish Ross had agreed to be interviewed, it would have been cool to see what he had to say after all was said and done.

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Couldn't stop listening!

At once a fascinating and captivating look at an under-reported story. Author provided a fair assessment of a potentially controversial subject, and did so in a very entertaining way. Highly recommended!

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  • sue
  • 2020-08-21

Awesome book

What an awesome book. Enjoyed every single second of it. wish I could find more books written so perfectly, and the guy reading is perfect. I loved everything about it!

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loved it!

Very interesting story with detailed information on the investigation and well narrated. I highly recommend.

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