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American Kingpin

The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road Drugs Empire
Written by: Nick Bilton
Narrated by: Will Damron
Length: 12 hrs and 14 mins
5 out of 5 stars (21 ratings)

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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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Best narration I have ever heard!

The author has done a great job in research and has presented it as an amazing narrative. The narration is so good that it felt like watching all the events live!

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    4 out of 5 stars

Great book superbly narrated

Loved it. Very well written and read. The details added made it such a good audio book.

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  • yul
  • 07-11-19

interesting book

the story itself is very interesting, but the book is written in a report style that I didn't like much

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 28-03-19

Simply Amazing

As the title says, this book was simply amazing. The story telling is excellent and no question was left unanswered.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Klarita
  • 18-08-18

Gripping, highly detailed and fascinating listen.

I wasn't actually expecting such a brilliant listen when I bought the book. I'd heard about the Silk Road but didn't know too much. Absolutely gripping story, albeit slightly repetitive at times, but truly fascinating, from every aspect. Wonderful!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Mike Walker
  • 09-01-19

great story

fascinating story of modern criminal
very well researched and narrated.
highly recommended listen for all.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-10-18

Epic listen

Great story line, well thought out and really well told.

Best audible I have heard so far and definitely recommend it.

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  • Ankit R.
  • 26-07-18

Fast, impactful and addictive!

This has to be in my top reads at audible. The narrator does a great job that you feel you are there with the protagonist at every step along the way. Beautifully describes the depth and complexity of the characters that almost makes you sympathetic to each side by the end. What I loved about American kingpin is the fast paced unfolding of the storyline! Must read!!

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  • A M
  • 15-10-17

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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  • Mark Horwell
  • 08-09-17

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
  • 23-12-17

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.

13 people found this helpful

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  • A. Smythe
  • 13-12-17

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.

19 people found this helpful

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  • Kirstine
  • 27-01-18

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.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Midnight Chance
  • 07-01-18

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.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Simon Caldwell
  • 18-11-17

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.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Judy Corstjens
  • 05-02-18

Gripping, thought-provoking, wonderful

I could not stop listening - I had to audio-walk so much this w/e that I eventually had to leave the dog at home as she was exhausted.

This is real-life Breaking Bad. A pretty normal, suburban, white, educated young man in Texas gets an idea to make it easy to buy and sell weed on-line, noticing that Bitcoin and the Dark Web have combined to make this proposition a real possibility. Hey-presto Ross Ulbricht finds himself running Amazon's evil twin from his laptop. The book reads like Breaking Bad, but is claimed to be close to reality. It is rather in the style (and brilliance) of Michael Lewis, perhaps a touch more racy, but maybe that is the material. There are plot twists here that are mind boggling.

The story is deeper than a simple crime thriller. It touches on the toxic distrust and loathing some Americans feel for their government, while at the same time providing a morality tale which shows why humans need a state - Ross gets robbed and scammed by the criminal elements he now frequents. It points at the cost and disfunction of the law and order infrastructure of the US (though there are also some real heroes). Highlights the problem of drugs - that there is so much demand out there, people desperate to buy drugs and pay large sums of money for them. How a criminal master-mind is born : Ulbricht really does order murders, but he is also just a stressed 28 year old, with a big problem he really needs to solve. There is also the business aspect - some of the challenges are similar to other 'unicorn' internet startups such as Facebook or Twitter. Less problems related to sales tax but more on the laundering side.

Narration. Perfect. Soft American voice is so unobtrusive you hardly notice it. Gentle inflexion for quotes from female and other characters without obvious accents and voices - very subtle, keeps you on track without intruding on what is meant to be a factual (non-fiction) account.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Beatrice
  • 14-02-18

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.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Shoaib
  • 28-07-17

Absolutely superb

Excellently researched, written and narrated. The author takes you into the complex mind of a criminal. Just as in "Batman Begins" rather than lazily depict the him as an evil criminal mastermind, the psychology and mind of "Ra's al Ghul" is explored and ultimately enables the viewer to understand why some people are motivated to do things. It is the easiest thing in the world to place labels on people. This book makes no apologies for the protagonist's crimes but at the same time takes the effort to dig deep and tell a fascinating story.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Kidster
  • 09-08-18

Brilliant book well read about history of our time

I knew nothing of this book before i pressed play on my phone and since then I’ve not been able to put it down. fascinatingly read left me googling facts and people as Nick takes us through the life of DPR, a story so well written it had me gripped.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 19-07-18

Gripping! A real life Breaking Bad

This is one of the most interesting books I've ever listened to on Audible. I was very surprised by just how good it was.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Darren
  • 11-06-19

riveting story

learnt so much about the Sill Road, amazing story could not stop listening. excellent narration, highly recommend to everyone out there.

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  • Brett
  • 25-05-19

what a ride!

Pretty amazing story, will make a fantastic movie! Shows corruption along with the battle of percieved good vs evil.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 18-05-20

Good, Solid Book

I enjoyed it, but it doesnt go anywhere the top of the lost. It's a solid book, presented in highly detailed, linear fashion. However, there was lots of room left where it could have become substantially more gripping

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  • Anonymous User
  • 19-04-20

Excellent story of the Silk Road

Nick Bilton does an outstanding job capturing each moment on the journey along the Silk Road. Not only for Ross Ulbricht, but for those who worked for him and against him. The level of detail and manner in which it is told, makes it feel like you are there with Ross, as he undergoes this tumultuous period in his life. Highly recommend it!

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  • Nathalie Chea
  • 18-04-20

Brilliantly told non-fiction story

Loved it! finished it in a week. Author goes into great detail that enhances the story amid many overlapping characters and scenarios.

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  • Colzz
  • 02-04-20

Wow!

A riveting tale. A true story of ambition, power, money and drugs. My only criticism is it should’ve been longer.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 18-02-20

Captivating

Consumed so much of my days once I got into it, very interesting story and very well told

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  • Dave P
  • 15-02-20

The story paints a great picture

I was quite familiar with the story of Ross Ulbricht but just the way the book is written and the way the narrator presents it makes the whole production so engrossing. It's an easy story to get into and will have broad appeal. The high ratings are justified so if you know nothing about Ross Ulbricht and the Silk Road, read a wiki page and then if it interests you get this and enjoy!

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  • Mitchell
  • 19-11-19

Outstanding

Great writing, great performance. Slightly long in the middle but overall one of my favourites.

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  • Jason
  • 18-10-19

Loved this

I usually listen to a mix of podcasts and an audiobook during any one week, but my podcasts were completely neglected as I listened to this. Kept me listening and was a super interesting story.