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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 members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

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!

29 of 29 people found this review helpful

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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.

22 of 23 people found this review helpful

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Couldn't stop listening

This is a great story. If you like breaking bad you will enjoy this book.

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

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You won't be disappointed

Bilton knocked it out of the park with a smart, fast paced, and engrossing story of wasted genius. I had heard of the Silk Road and Ross Ulbricht, but had no idea, until now, the gravity and implications of his crimes.



14 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Kathy
  • Davis, CA, United States
  • 01-20-18

Mesmerizing! Fascinating! Chilling! Amazing!

American Kingpin belongs right up there with my best-ever listens. I became totally obsessed with the book. It was all I could think of during the several days it took me to finish it. All the while, I fretted about being done too fast. However, I am keeping open the possibility of a second listen, if need be.

In summary, this is the true story of a very intelligent, idealistic young man with libertarian leanings. His beliefs led him to start a sight on the darknet called the Silk Road where initially any illegal drug could be acquired and delivered by your friendly mailman right to one's mailbox. As the book progressed, you could see how this initially likeable young man's morals and beliefs became gravely distorted. Other products were permitted for sale, more egregious and cringe-worthy than illicit drugs! It appeared that for our protagonist, the Dread Pirate Roberts or DPR (as he subsequently called himself), the sky was the limit!

This darknet site was phenomenally successful and became a billion dollar enterprise. As you read this incredibly well-researched story, you might have the hairs stand up as you see how DPR's dream evolved into something he never envisioned and how there was no turning back for him. He would do WHATEVER it took to keep his identity hidden and and to maintain total control over his Silk Road website. You will be on the edge of your seat during the hunt for his identity by various government agencies, including but not limited to the FBI and the DEA.

I have never felt more like a fly on the wall in so many people's lives, and I loved every minute of it! The author, Nick Bilton, did his homework very thoroughly. I felt like I was absorbed into his story. Adding to my enjoyment was a great narration by Will Damron.

This book is very highly recommended! Don't miss it.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Moira
  • Chicago, IL, United States
  • 06-11-17

Very Timely Amazing Story

What made the experience of listening to American Kingpin the most enjoyable?

The writing by Nick Bilton, who I follow.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Well he was pretty mesmerizing, the Kingpin, but he wasn't my favorite

Which character – as performed by Will Damron – was your favorite?

The writer is my favorite
The reader was fantastic
This is a book, that reading I literally could not put down.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No, because it's thrilling to have something to look forward to.

Any additional comments?

I almost didn't buy this book. I like Bilton's work. Had read a piece in Wired and thought I had gotten the gist of the story. I was so wrong!

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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A great narrative look into a fascinating story.

The narration was great and the author turned what could have been boring and tedious geek speak, into something that really draws you in.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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amazing book!!!!

once I started listening I couldn't stop. I wish all books on here were that good!!

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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Best listen in a long time

This book kept my interest in every chapter. This was a great example of what really goes on in the world. I would recommend this book to everyone

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • B.J.
  • Minneapolis, MN, United States
  • 01-02-18

You'll be telling your friends about this book.

This amazingly well-researched book got hold of me and wouldn't let go. Every part of it is interesting -- the dark web, the whole concept of the Silk Road and the man behind it. I learned, I thought about what was in it, and the narration was perfect. That's a 5-star book.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful