American Kingpin
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 twenty-six-year-old libertarian programmer named Ross Ulbricht launched the ultimate free market: the Silk Road, a clandestine Web site 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 Web site 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 $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 bestselling 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.

American Kingpin Details

Book TitleAmerican Kingpin
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American Kingpin Reviews

  • James Cobo
    May 28, 2017

    James Cobo

    Absolutely captivatingI thought I was familiar with the story of the rise and fall of the Silk Road, but Nick Bilton took the story a million times further than I had expected it to go. The underlying narrative is inherently technical, but it's told so well that it feels like reading a...

  • Nina
    May 28, 2017


    Fascinating story, not badly written, but not especially well-written, either. I feel that this story needed more in-depth coverage. So many fascinating aspects get just the briefest of discussions, for example, the fact that not 1, but 2, investigating agents stole from the Silk Road ...

  • Tim O'Hearn
    May 27, 2017

    Tim O'Hearn

    Nick Bilton's account of one of the most thrilling crime stories of our generation is impossible to put down. His writing is not just thoughtfully balanced, but obsessively so. You will read harsh critiques written by diehard supporters of Ross Ulbricht and the movement he started, but...

  • Carl Deskins,III
    May 27, 2017

    Carl Deskins,III

    Review of a well-informed style of writing!!!!!!!!!!American Kingpin is a well-written and well-researched book that definitely informs the readers!!!!!! I liked reading this book mainly for the reason that he has a good part but also a part that was exploited by a bad use of technolog...

  • Jamie
    May 27, 2017


    Fascinating! Simply fascinating to see how a kid takes an idea and creates a whole different world. Scary to see how a lightbulb idea can cause so much havoc and pain. It is unfortunate that these kinds of events happen. ...

  • Rob Crockett
    May 26, 2017

    Rob Crockett

    I was excited to read this one, as I loved Hatching Twitter. This one, like Hatching Twitter, was fast paced and light. The site got out of hand for Ross, but instead of wisely stepping back, he embraced the power it gave him and jumped in with both feet. This certainly will be a movie...

  • Forrest
    May 25, 2017


    A page turner that's impossible to put down. The downside is an uninteresting writing style and the fact that the book is chopped up into something like 75 bite sized chapters. Why? Still, a great story that seems thoroughly researched by the author. ...

  • Craig Carignan
    May 24, 2017

    Craig Carignan

    An excellent book that tells a very interesting story about something that I've been interested in for sometime. Although I never entered the Silk Road I've been on the Dark Web and found this book to tell the story of the Silk Road in an unbiased manner. ...

  • Matthew Murray
    May 23, 2017

    Matthew Murray

    This book is another reason why I don't read fiction anymore. Crazy story. ...

  • Mark Yellis
    May 20, 2017

    Mark Yellis

    Remember the Silk Road website? Remember Dread Pirate Roberts? Do you? If so, you will find this well researched account of a young libertarian who became the most notorious criminal in the world over a stretch of a few years quite fascinating.I memba! ...