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 February 2002, New York Times Magazine writer Michael Finkel received a startling piece of news: a young man named Christian Longo, wanted for killing his entire family, had been captured in Mexico, where he'd taken on a new identity: Michael Finkel of the New York Times.
The next day, on page A-3 of the Times, came another troubling item: a note from the editors explaining that Finkel, having falsified parts of an investigative article, had been fired. Nonetheless, the only journalist Longo would speak with was the real Michael Finkel, and so Finkel placed a call to Oregon's Lincoln County jail, intent on getting the true story. So began a bizarre and intense relationship—a reporting job that morphed into a shrewd game of cat-and-mouse. Part mystery, part memoir, part mea culpa, True Story weaves a spellbinding tale of murder, love, and deceit with a deeply personal inquiry into the slippery nature of truth.
“Carefully structured, rigorously reported, and fascinating till the end.” “Astute and hypnotically absorbing . . . there’s a burning sincerity and beautifully modulated writing on every page.” A riveting, disturbing and magnificent merging of two men at their lowest moments. Combines crime and intellectual heft…could well become a classic of the genre. Always fascinating, sometimes funny, often very weird . . . simply terrific from the first page to the last. A compulsively readable amorality tale. A memoir as creepy as it is compelling…expertly and suspensefully told.
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