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Publisher's Summary

Random House presents the unabridged downloadable audiobook edition of American Kingpin by Nick Bilton, read by Will Damron.

From New York Times best-selling author Nick Bilton comes a true-life thriller about the rise and fall of Ross Ulbricht, aka the Dread Pirate Roberts, the founder of the online black market Silk Road.

In 2011, Ulbricht, a 26-year-old libertarian idealist and former Boy Scout, launched 'a website where people could buy anything anonymously, with no trail whatsoever that could lead back to them'. He called it Silk Road, opened for business on the Dark Web, and christened himself the Dread Pirate Roberts (after the Princess Bride character). The site grew at a tremendous pace, quickly becoming a $1.2 billion enterprise where you could buy or sell drugs, hacking software, forged passports, counterfeit cash, guns, grenades, and poisons.

The Silk Road soon caught the attention of the feds, who embarked on an epic two-year manhunt for the site's proprietor. Ulbricht, in the meantime, struggled to maintain control of his double life and his marketplace, which he originally started to prove that legalising drugs could make society safer. He gradually abandoned his libertarian ideals to rule Silk Road with increasingly authoritarian force. At one point he engaged the services of hired hitmen to take out employees he felt had wronged him. Soon some of the federal agents who were supposed to be hunting for Ulbricht were lured into the dark world and switched sides to join him.

This is a true-life thriller about ambition gone awry, spurred on by the defining clash of our time: the new world of libertarian-leaning, anonymous, decentralised web advocates and the old world of government control, order and the rule of law. Bilton's dazzling rendering and gift for narrative make for an endlessly fascinating drama.

©2017 Nick Bilton (P)2017 Random House Audiobooks

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Really good

No matter how good you are if you gamble too many times you will get caught.

Great book.

It just interesting that there is so much going on out there. You dont know what you dont know.

Its a must read. I finished it in 3 days

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A real insight in to a criminal mastermind

It's extremely well written and level detail is amazing. I want to listen again. :-)

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  • S. Bramble
  • 12-23-17

Absolutely gripping

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

This story is told like the author was alongside Ross Ulbricht for his entire life which makes me believe some of the smaller details of the book are just entered for the sake of making the story complete. However, because of this, the story flows extremely well and paints a detailed picture of Ross's life

Any additional comments?

This book is absolutely gripping. This book starts off slowly, but soon gets completely riveting. It describes how The Silk Road grew from a small site selling magic mushrooms to the world's biggest online drug store, netting millions for Ross Ulbricht. Although the minor details could be fabricated, Bilton has pieced together the key points of the growth of the Silk Road and takes you on an epic journey from the start to the end of the Silk Road leaving you in no doubt as to Ross's guilt. An excellent book.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • A. Smythe
  • 12-13-17

Thought provoking and addictive listen!

I wasn't enamoured with the writing or narration for this book. It doesn't flow well in places and so many phrases and sentences are repeated, I found myself rolling my eyes and tutting in the same way I do when watching a poorly presented documentary on TV.
The narration sounds a little robotic to begin with, but you do get used to it as the story unfolds.

With my criticisms out the way, it's important to note that I was fascinated from beginning to end. I had heard of the Silk Road, but knew little about it all.
What is clear, is that the author Nick Bilton has done his research (as mentioned at the start and end of the book); the meticulous details and chronological presentation shows how carefully Bilton worked to piece the facts together.
It is an incredible and enthralling true story and despite some misgivings regarding writing and narration, I could not wait to hear the next installment on my daily commute.
Recommend.

14 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Kirstine
  • 01-27-18

Enthralling insight into the dark web

I didn’t know what to expect when I downloaded this book, but I’m very glad I did for it is a gripping and astonishing story about the creation of a massive world-wide online business facilitating the sale of drugs, guns and even body parts using the hidden world of the dark web aided by the employment untraceable bitcoin currency. The pacy writing style and the exciting cat and mouse tussle between those running the illicit website and the powers of law and order make this enthralling listen.

The narrator is excellent and helps create the feeling that one is experiencing the thrill of the chase.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Kirsteen
  • 01-07-18

excellent story

I loved this book. The narration is excellent and keeps the listener engaged. The story is fairly fast paced and fascinating. I also found it pretty shocking in places.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Simon Caldwell
  • 11-18-17

Can't believe it's not fiction!

Really loved this. The story is well told with a performance from the narrator that does this story justice. It was fascinating to see both sides of the story and shows that both criminals and law enforcement are just people. Could not recommend this more.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Beatrice
  • 02-14-18

Can’t put it away

I learned about the story though the podcast “Case files” and found it so interesting, I immediately purchased the audiobook and can’t stop listening. I constantly have to remind myself that this really happened.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Mr
  • 01-05-18

The power of the internet, another example.

Powerful example of the potential to rise against law and order. Using avenues that simply cannot be accessed by anything other than the internet.

Will Damron is an excellent narrator in my opinion.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Emmet Gardner
  • 12-20-17

Great Listen

Great listen, highly recommended. Made me sorry when car journeys came to an end. !

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Chris
  • 12-14-17

great listen *****

what an amazing story, couldnt stop listening.
highly recommended for lovers of a good story

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • lee
  • 11-23-17

a very interesting and well written / read account

a very interesting and well written / read account
i really enjoyed it and look forward to more like it

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • cr3studio
  • 08-25-17

Read this please !!!!

This is the best audio book I've listened to so far I could not put it down I knocked it out in a matter of days, it's just a great book read or listen to it you won't be disappointed

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Agnes thompson
  • 02-16-18

great read

Couldn't put this one down. I hope there's more like this to come. Well written and we'll performed.

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  • zico
  • 11-13-17

Six Star Performance for a Fascinating Story

This was an unbelievably good listen. Not only was American Kingpin hard to stop once you started it raised such a lot of thought provoking questions that i had to do some more research into Ross Ulbrecht and the Silk Road after i finished the book. It raises a lot of interesting questions into the issues surrounding decriminalisation of the drug trade, the use and abuse of technology and how a ideological viewpoint i.e. libertarian politics can turn a "good person" over to the dark side of drug trafficking. Nick Bilton writes this book in such an engaging style that it is totally enthralling for the listener. My best read of the year to date.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 11-05-17

Now this is extremely interesting

This story shows just how someone's desire to achieve a better lifestyle driven by desire to have more in life can take an ungracious turn when morals and ethics are compromised for public opinions and consequences versus an individuals interpretation and differed option of which we are all entitled
Shame of it is that someone with so much immense ability to go so far in life used that intellect in a way that would result in a negative effect on his life rather than the positive and what could of been

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-21-17

Riveting

Such a great listen. The ability of the author to piece together their research into an engaging story is impressive.

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  • John kennedy
  • 09-10-17

Amazing story

Very well researched. Well paced. Phenomomenal story and excellent character development to give the bigger picture. Well worth a listen

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  • Russell
  • 08-22-17

loved it great book very interesting story.

what a great book true life crime at its best. have a listen well worth it.

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  • Dugald Holmes
  • 07-29-17

Stunning

Right at the end, Nick explains how they pieced together the story and explains the depth of understanding of Ross Ulbricht's life before he was caught.
It's fascinating in so many aspects, including Ross's multiple personas and showing how he slipped up, using nicknames in multiple places that finally led to him being the prime suspect.
Everything we do can be traced, if not electronically then by human contact that everyone craves, including Ross.
Thanks for telling this story so enthrallingly and to Leo Laporte and the team at TWiT that had Nick as a guest and recommended it.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-21-17

solid. good read.

engrossing and captivating. more from the government side of the fence then liberal but worth a read

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-08-17

Burgo

Fascinating story about the creator of the Silk Road. Had no prior knowledge of the story prior to listening to the book but it was compelling listening and I would recommend it to anyone!