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In the haunting tradition of Joe McGinniss's Fatal Vision and Mikal Gilmore's Shot in the Heart, True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa weaves a spellbinding tale of murder, love, and deceit with a deeply personal inquiry into the slippery nature of truth. The story begins in February of 2002, when a reporter in Oregon contacts New York Times Magazine writer Michael Finkel w In the haunting tradition of Joe McGinniss's Fatal Vision and Mikal Gilmore's Shot in the Heart, True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa weaves a spellbinding tale of murder, love, and deceit with a deeply personal inquiry into the slippery nature of truth. The story begins in February of 2002, when a reporter in Oregon contacts New York Times Magazine writer Michael Finkel with a startling piece of news. A young, highly intelligent man named Christian Longo, on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list for killing his entire family, has recently 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, comes another bit of troubling news: a note, written by the paper's editors, explaining that Finkel has falsified parts of an investigative article and has been fired. This unlikely confluence sets the stage for a bizarre and intense relationship. After Longo's arrest, the only journalist the accused murderer will speak with is the real Michael Finkel. And as the months until Longo's trial tick away, the two men talk for dozens of hours on the telephone, meet in the jailhouse visiting room, and exchange nearly a thousand pages of handwritten letters. With Longo insisting he can prove his innocence, Finkel strives to uncover what really happened to Longo's family, and his quest becomes less a reporting job than a psychological cat-and-mouse game -- sometimes redemptively honest, other times slyly manipulative. Finkel's pursuit pays off only at the end, when Longo, after a lifetime of deception, finally says what he wouldn't even admit in court -- the whole, true story. Or so it seems.


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In the haunting tradition of Joe McGinniss's Fatal Vision and Mikal Gilmore's Shot in the Heart, True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa weaves a spellbinding tale of murder, love, and deceit with a deeply personal inquiry into the slippery nature of truth. The story begins in February of 2002, when a reporter in Oregon contacts New York Times Magazine writer Michael Finkel w In the haunting tradition of Joe McGinniss's Fatal Vision and Mikal Gilmore's Shot in the Heart, True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa weaves a spellbinding tale of murder, love, and deceit with a deeply personal inquiry into the slippery nature of truth. The story begins in February of 2002, when a reporter in Oregon contacts New York Times Magazine writer Michael Finkel with a startling piece of news. A young, highly intelligent man named Christian Longo, on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list for killing his entire family, has recently 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, comes another bit of troubling news: a note, written by the paper's editors, explaining that Finkel has falsified parts of an investigative article and has been fired. This unlikely confluence sets the stage for a bizarre and intense relationship. After Longo's arrest, the only journalist the accused murderer will speak with is the real Michael Finkel. And as the months until Longo's trial tick away, the two men talk for dozens of hours on the telephone, meet in the jailhouse visiting room, and exchange nearly a thousand pages of handwritten letters. With Longo insisting he can prove his innocence, Finkel strives to uncover what really happened to Longo's family, and his quest becomes less a reporting job than a psychological cat-and-mouse game -- sometimes redemptively honest, other times slyly manipulative. Finkel's pursuit pays off only at the end, when Longo, after a lifetime of deception, finally says what he wouldn't even admit in court -- the whole, true story. Or so it seems.

30 review for True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sam Quixote

    It’s fair to say that Michael Finkel had a pretty dramatic 2002. He went from being an award-winning journalist working at the prestigious New York Times to a publicly disgraced pariah whose career was suddenly in the shitter! How? In a story about child slavery on West African cocoa plantations, he had tried to pass off a composite character as a real person and got found out. Then, in a call from an Oregon paper that he assumed was about his scandalous breach of journalistic ethics, he was ask It’s fair to say that Michael Finkel had a pretty dramatic 2002. He went from being an award-winning journalist working at the prestigious New York Times to a publicly disgraced pariah whose career was suddenly in the shitter! How? In a story about child slavery on West African cocoa plantations, he had tried to pass off a composite character as a real person and got found out. Then, in a call from an Oregon paper that he assumed was about his scandalous breach of journalistic ethics, he was asked about the murders of a woman and three children committed by New York Times journalist Michael Finkel! Whaaaaaaat?! The old adage “truth is stranger than fiction” certainly applies to this book! True Story is the bizarre and thoroughly compelling account of how Michael Finkel fell from grace and then immediately got wrapped up in the case of Chris Longo, the young Jehovah’s Witness who strangled his family in December 2001, fled to Mexico, where he told people that he was Finkel, before being caught by the FBI and brought back to the States to face justice. The book is an original blend of memoir and true crime masterfully written in the nonfiction novel style pioneered in Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. Finkel’s scandal/confession/mea culpa though, while interesting in itself and adding a unique dimension to the narrative, only takes up a relatively short part of the book as it could be covered much more succinctly than Longo’s crimes, the latter obviously being the main draw anyway. I can see why it was included as both Finkel and Longo are revealed as liars albeit to very different degrees. Finkel’s lies were minor and benign and he’s clearly learned from his mistakes while Longo’s lies led to the deaths of four people. Finkel’s portrait of Longo is utterly mesmerising. A charming and likeable man with a magnetic personality, Longo is also a narcissistic pathological liar who is acutely sensitive to how people perceived him – he had to look like a success to everyone, especially his wife Maryjane – with a complex about his intelligence (though the reader can see his limitations from the direct quotes from his letters showing misspellings, poor grammar and a pretentious use of complex words to impress his audience). Longo was completely incapable of living within his means. Like a car crash in slow motion, you can’t turn away as his failing construction company’s finances and his own out-of-control spending leads him to compound lies with more lies before escalating to stealing cars and counterfeiting cheques. Things get worse and his behaviour becomes more erratic: he cheats on his wife, the pressure of constantly hiding the increasing chaos from family and friends begets more lies, more theft, more fraud, causing him to up stakes and flee with his family across America, desperately trying to stay one step ahead of creditors and law enforcement… until it finally all fell apart and overwhelmed him. Longo on the stand during the trial is the most gripping section as we see his true nature emerge. I found the unvarnished audacity with which Longo brazenly lied to be completely breathtaking, revealing himself to be this irredeemable, warped, almost inhuman creature. Not just during the trial but afterwards too, the way he continued trying to futilely manipulate Finkel and reality with more and more lies, despite their contradictions. There wasn’t much I disliked about the book but it definitely dragged a bit in the middle. There’s a part where Finkel and Longo fall out and waiting for Finkel to win back Longo’s favour was tedious. And, while the final months leading up to the murders was entrancing, a lot of Longo’s bio was boring – his courtship with Maryjane, building his business, his everyday life; very banal stuff. Otherwise, True Story was an excellent and remarkable read - a morbidly fascinating and memorable tale of a deeply disturbing criminal, a horrific crime and the flawed but penitent journalist documenting it all who was inadvertently caught in the maelstrom. True crime fans will love this and I can easily see this becoming a classic of the genre up there with In Cold Blood.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Darlene

    In 2017, I read a book called The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit written by journalist Michael Finkel and that compelling story stayed with me throughout the year. Looking for anything else Michael Finkel may have written, I found True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa which is a mixture of things... part true crime, part memoir and also a story of redemption. To truly understand how this story came to be,it is important to provide some background. In 2001, In 2017, I read a book called The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit written by journalist Michael Finkel and that compelling story stayed with me throughout the year. Looking for anything else Michael Finkel may have written, I found True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa which is a mixture of things... part true crime, part memoir and also a story of redemption. To truly understand how this story came to be,it is important to provide some background. In 2001, Michael Finkel was employed by 'The New York Times' and was pursuing a story in West Africa. The story he BELIEVED he would find was one of children selling themselves into slavery on cocoa plantations; but as it turned out, that WASN'T the story he found. After numerous interviews with boys working on the plantations and with plantation owners, what he discovered was NOT child slavery but extreme poverty and deplorable living conditions. Upon his return to New York, he realized after meeting with his editors that he did not possess the story they wanted him to write. Fearing the loss of his job and the end of his career off he could not deliver the story his editors wanted, he created a composite character to use in his story and ran this story with a photo of this composite character... which happened to be a photo of one of the very REAL boys he had interviewed... a boy by the name of Youssouf Male. Mr. Finkel's deception was discovered and he was subsequently fired by 'The New York Times' for violating journalistic ethics. Interestingly and coincidentally, on the day that 'The New York Times' announced that Michael Finkel had been fired, he received a phone call from a reporter in the state of Oregon who informed him that a man named Christian Longo had been arrested in Cancun, Mexico for the murder of his wife and three young children.... and what's more, he had been using Michael Finkel's identity. Mr. Finkel was dumbfounded but also intrigued and the seed of an idea began to form in his mind. This was an incredible story... perhaps it was a story which could rehabilitate his reputation and save his career. And this background sets the stage for an incredible story I could NOT put down..... Michael Finkel requested an interview with Christian Longo at the Lincoln County jail in Oregon where he was incarcerated while he was awaiting trial and to his surprise, Mr. Longo agreed to see him. The two men would continue to meet, talk by telephone and exchange letters during the months leading up to Mr. Longo's trial. I began to develop a picture of who Christian Longo was... or maybe I should say that I THOUGHT I began to form a picture of the man. In retrospect, perhaps all I really knew about the man were the basics.... he was from a middle class, religious family from Michigan. He married his wife, Mary Jane when he was just 19 years old and started a construction clean-up business and he and Mary Jane had three children.. Zachery, Madison and Sadie. His business was not successful but as he had been living far beyond his means, he could not allow anyone to know of his failure. This business failure led to his writing counterfeit checks and renting a car illegally which he then drove out of state with his family and ended up in Oregon.This series of events seemed to culminate with the murder of his wife and children in December of 2001. But what really happened? Although True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa has been described as a game of 'cat and mouse', it didn't take long for me to realize that it os impossible to know which man was the 'cat' and which was the 'mouse.' My impression is that the dynamics between Christian Longo and Michael Finkel became quite complicated. Because Michael Finkel was narrating the story, all the information the reader obtained was filtered through his eyes but I believe it would be fair to say that both men were engaging in a bit of self-serving manipulation. Obviously, Mr. Finkel wanted badly to resurrect his damaged journalism career and needed Christian Longo to confide in him.. to tell him what really happened to his wife and children. And after reading this entire story, I came to the conclusion that Mr. Longo was also attempting his won manipulation. He needed to be able to convince the court that his arrest had been a mistake... that he was really a good guy who loved his family, tried hard to give them a good life and would never harm them. If he was able to test his story on Michael Finkel and convince HIM of his innocence, then maybe he would have a chance of convincing the court. Having said all of this, I also have to say that Chritian Longo and Michael Finkel DID seem to develop some sort of bond or relationship during their many months of communicating. Perhaps it wasn't friendship exactly but I do think they became comfortable with each other. Did Christian Longo strangle his wife and youngest child and throw his other two children off a bridge in Oregon in those early morning December hours? And what did the court in Lincoln County ultimately think of his story? I don't want to spoil what eventually happened in this case.. read the book! I have to admit that Christian Longo seemed charming and likable and I think Micheal Finkel felt much the same way.... and that becomes a kind of dilemma for society. If this charming and likable person could also be a lying, manipulative murderer, how do we ever feel safe? Society often feels the need to separate ourselves from people who do terrible things.. they somehow become 'other' or less than human.. monsters. But as Micheal Finkel points out.. whether we want to accept it for not, they ARE human and possess the same sets of chromosomes we all have. Obviously, there are no good answers to this dilemma... but plenty of questions to ponder. I don't feel I can wrap up my review of this book without mentioning the redemption aspect of this story. I know from reading several online reviews that there are plenty of reviewers who do not believe Michael Finkel's contrition over his lying in his 'New York Times' story is sincere. I have different view. Of course, only Michael Finkel knows what he truly feels and for some people, no act of contrition on his part will ever convince them. I agree that he should not have lied in his 'New York Times' article and he DID violate his journalistic ethics; and given the negative feelings toward the media, it os understandable that many people do not trust or believe him. But I happen to think that his story also raises questions about the state of investigative journalism and perhaps it also says something important about society. Michael Finkel began with the intent of investigating the modern-day slavery of young boys in West Africa. He did not find evidence to support THAT story; however, he did find a different story.. a story of extreme, soul killing poverty. It wasn't perhaps a sensational or titillating story... but it WAS a story of hardships so severe that young boys worked in horrible conditions for just a few pennies per day and the owners of these plantations were no better off than the boys they employed. But 'The New York Times' knows its readers and they believed their readers would not be interested in a story about extreme poverty.Maybe our society is too easily entertained and distracted by that which is sensational or fantastic and we feel we must avert our eyes from that which makes us feel uncomfortable, powerless or even angry. So yes, Michael Finkel violated his journalistic ethics but I feel this story is much more nuanced and complicated and provides much to think about. I hope Micheal Finkel continues to write such thought-provoking stories... I will be reading them. Apparently, Hollywood was as enthralled with this book as I was. They made a film about it in 2015 called 'True Story'. Christian Longo was portrayed by James Franco and Micheal Finkel was portrayed by Jonah Hill. If you're interested, here is the official trailer.... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_NiP...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Simon Cleveland, PhD

    3 of 8 people found the following review helpful: What's one man's demise is another's redemption...or is it?, June 2, 2006 Michael Finkel wrote this book in an effort to alter the popular opinion that he is a dishonest reporter who falsified his articles. He wrote with one objective in mind - to emerge as a talented author and honest human being. But was he able to do so? It's up to the readers to decide. What's the book about? As it turned out, a serial murderer used Mr. Finkel's identity t 3 of 8 people found the following review helpful: What's one man's demise is another's redemption...or is it?, June 2, 2006 Michael Finkel wrote this book in an effort to alter the popular opinion that he is a dishonest reporter who falsified his articles. He wrote with one objective in mind - to emerge as a talented author and honest human being. But was he able to do so? It's up to the readers to decide. What's the book about? As it turned out, a serial murderer used Mr. Finkel's identity to hide from the law. Luckily, the FBI did their job and caught the man. And when Mr. Finkel found out that his identity has been compromised for nearly a month, he saw an opportunity to use the story as a stepping stone toward redemption, toward purification of his own public character. The book is written well, but having read it, I wouldn't recommend it. For one thing, it does little to reveal something new about the character of the murderer. It simply affirms the man's deceitful nature. And I could care less about Finkel's correspondence with the murderer. There were times when I felt like I was reading a gnostic gospel- an account of lies between two corrupt men = the dishonest journalist and the two-faced murderer - what a pair. If anyone is interested in the story, the Internet is a perfect source about Longo's biography. Use it, don't waste your time with the book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sarju Shrestha Mehri

    Omg! What a book! I picked this book because I saw the preview of the movie.Since it is based on true story I wanted to understand the story before it hits in the movie theater . I started reading the book three days ago and could not rest until I finished it. This story is about a con man who is convicted of murdering his whole family, who performed many illegal work and impersonated a real New York Times journalist, Michael Finkel. This is very interesting memoir from of the writer who falls fr Omg! What a book! I picked this book because I saw the preview of the movie.Since it is based on true story I wanted to understand the story before it hits in the movie theater . I started reading the book three days ago and could not rest until I finished it. This story is about a con man who is convicted of murdering his whole family, who performed many illegal work and impersonated a real New York Times journalist, Michael Finkel. This is very interesting memoir from of the writer who falls from his own grace of journalism for falsifying a headline story and his a year long correspondence with the con/narcissists Christian Lango and their weird friendship. Finkel does a good job on acknowledging his short coming and his embarrassment as a journalist in an honest way in this book. I felt his writing style of building up the storyline was great in making the reader stop and wonder, what the heck is wrong with these two people. I felt he worked really hard to find a way to comeback as a writer. Also,this story is about husband and wife relationship and family members, lies and deceits, what drives people to do illegal work and continuously repeat over and over again. Overall, I am happy to see Finkel's life back as a writer. Every person should get a second chance.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Willis

    I don't think I could accurately estimate the percentage of time I spent with my mouth hanging open or the number of times I exclaimed, out loud, "Oh, my God!" while reading this book. The sheer audacity and calculated rationalizing of Chris Longo -- the convicted murderer around whom this story revolves -- are at once both mesmerizing and horrifying. "True Story" is the perfect title for this book, wherein the author struggles with the honesty/dishonesty of his subject, even as he comes clean ab I don't think I could accurately estimate the percentage of time I spent with my mouth hanging open or the number of times I exclaimed, out loud, "Oh, my God!" while reading this book. The sheer audacity and calculated rationalizing of Chris Longo -- the convicted murderer around whom this story revolves -- are at once both mesmerizing and horrifying. "True Story" is the perfect title for this book, wherein the author struggles with the honesty/dishonesty of his subject, even as he comes clean about his own journalistic misdeed. I appreciate Finkel's sharing of his own circumstances, with a detailed explanation of how he came to be fired from the New York Times Magazine, rather than offering excuses and justifications for his behavior. According to Longo, he and Finkel are both liars, almost brothers in their deception -- partially owing to the coincidence of Longo having assumed Finkel's identity while he was on the lam in Mexico. As Longo keeps spinning his yarns to Finkel in long letters, over the phone, and in prison visits, he never stops offering additional versions of the truth to convince Finkel of his sincerity. Chillingly, toward the end of the men's association, Longo comments that it took, "two liars to make two people turn to a path of honesty." But what is honesty? Based on Longo's behavior and history, it seems that "truth telling" may be whatever partial, rationalized fiction will cast the narcissist in the best light or allow him to feel morally justified.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Aditi

    Waste of money.. everything sounds like a lie. Recently it's movie adaption compelled me to buy this book, unfortunately the book is not that worthy or anything delightful to read about. I mean who wants to read about a smart-ass manipulative mass-murderer who killed off his whole family of three children and a wife. In fact the author doesn't sound so real, I mean he was trying to prove his worth to his fans. But I tell you, it didn't work! Anyhow, the protagonist put me off!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Diane Yannick

    So, I started with The Stranger in the Woods, then backed up to read this one. Another fascinating story that I couldn't put down. Truth truly can be stranger than fiction. The utter audacity of Chris Longo boggled my mind. That he could murder his family yet carry on with his dramatic charade is mind boggling. After murdering his family, Longo impersonates Michael Finkel during his Mexican "vacation". The real Finkel had just been fired from the NYT for making a composite character and careless So, I started with The Stranger in the Woods, then backed up to read this one. Another fascinating story that I couldn't put down. Truth truly can be stranger than fiction. The utter audacity of Chris Longo boggled my mind. That he could murder his family yet carry on with his dramatic charade is mind boggling. After murdering his family, Longo impersonates Michael Finkel during his Mexican "vacation". The real Finkel had just been fired from the NYT for making a composite character and carelessly misidentifying a picture. (BTW, I am a total fan of this author who very clearly and without excuses explained why he was fired and took total responsibility for his missteps. He deserved this new project which came along at the exact right time.) Many conversations and letters between Finkel and Longo are shared. If you just like to cut to the chase, you're not going to like this amount of detail. I was pleased to read and form my own opinions about Longo's mental state and actions. He was a liar, manipulator, thief, and murderer. Yet his unmistakeable charisma and good looks allowed him to get away with much more than the average person. He could look someone in the face and lie to them repeatedly. Once caught, he had no plan other than violence. My heart broke for his wife and children. As the omnipotent reader, I wanted to warn them to run fast and far. I did believe that his wife gave him far too many chances and their Jehovah Witness beliefs clouded her vision. I did not see the movie version of this story as I enjoy every word that Finkel writes. Perhaps that's a slight exaggeration but I will let it stand.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sean

    The story is interesting enough, but there's only so much ego-stroking I can handle. Finkel and Longo, the two narcissists at the center of the story, have more in common than I think Finkel cares to acknowledge. Their story shares the same narrative. In a work of fiction, I would consider this an interesting layer to the story. One is a mirror of the other. But this isn't fiction. These two people exist. Finkel views True Story as his redemption story. Through the trial of Longo, he learns the d The story is interesting enough, but there's only so much ego-stroking I can handle. Finkel and Longo, the two narcissists at the center of the story, have more in common than I think Finkel cares to acknowledge. Their story shares the same narrative. In a work of fiction, I would consider this an interesting layer to the story. One is a mirror of the other. But this isn't fiction. These two people exist. Finkel views True Story as his redemption story. Through the trial of Longo, he learns the dark side of himself and realizes the impact of his deceptions. But just like Longo, he's putting forth a version of events with a purpose. Every suspicion he shares about Longo could apply to himself. He doesn't acknowledge any of this, though. Ultimately, this attempt at redemption seemed insincere. It was a second attempt at Finkel using a deceptive narrative device to get back in the public's good graces.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mary Frances

    This book is most interesting for the way one narcissist, the author, tells the story of his relationship with another, the murderer/ con man Chris Longo. Over and over in the book I find these insincere comments by the author about his fictional article that got him fired from the New Yorker, about the lies he tells to his subject which he tries to justify while "regretting" the lies, about his insincerity with others. It's kind of fascinating in that regard. As a comprehensive study of either This book is most interesting for the way one narcissist, the author, tells the story of his relationship with another, the murderer/ con man Chris Longo. Over and over in the book I find these insincere comments by the author about his fictional article that got him fired from the New Yorker, about the lies he tells to his subject which he tries to justify while "regretting" the lies, about his insincerity with others. It's kind of fascinating in that regard. As a comprehensive study of either man, it fails in depth and insight. I'm also fascinated with the very average quality of the writing, from a man who was considered good enough that the NYT published a number of his articles.....

  10. 4 out of 5

    Juletta Gilge

    I will admit, I watched the movie first and loved it, so I decided to check out the book. I loved it too. It was so well done and easy to follow. This is a crazy story but worth the read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie Faust

    Finkel is a disgraced journalist whose own hubris led him to lie about one of his stories about child slavery in Africa. Longo is a disgraced husband and father whose own narcissism led to the murder of his wife and three children and subsequent identity theft of Finkel (in name only, as an alias). The two strike up an unlikely and tenuous friendship when Longo is arrested, and each uses this "friendship" to their own advantage. The result is an interesting study in the line between ego and pers Finkel is a disgraced journalist whose own hubris led him to lie about one of his stories about child slavery in Africa. Longo is a disgraced husband and father whose own narcissism led to the murder of his wife and three children and subsequent identity theft of Finkel (in name only, as an alias). The two strike up an unlikely and tenuous friendship when Longo is arrested, and each uses this "friendship" to their own advantage. The result is an interesting study in the line between ego and personality disorder, and coping mechanisms we use to save face and deal with the consequences of our actions. While one would assume Finkel holds the cards in their arrangement, it eventually becomes clear how he was used by Longo from the very beginning. Finkel's own introspective study and acceptance of his role in his downfall, both personally and professionally, provide an interesting mirror to that of the ultimate narcissist, a man so consumed with his outward appearance and fantasy life that he murdered the only people on the planet who actually loved him unconditionally.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly Dawn

    Another five star rating for this author! This is the third book or story of his that I have read. I just love a well-written true story.

  13. 5 out of 5

    ♥ Marlene♥

    Disgusted! This book made me feel awful about the world today. So 2 lying nasty narcissists both got what they want. Longo was given a friend and someone he could tell all his lies to and him staying in control which is very important for men like him. Then the author gave this horrible man a voice. He let this man lie to him and even wrote all his lies down as if they are true!! He befriended him and liked him and that says enough to me. Even Longo's mum warned him that everybody at first thought Disgusted! This book made me feel awful about the world today. So 2 lying nasty narcissists both got what they want. Longo was given a friend and someone he could tell all his lies to and him staying in control which is very important for men like him. Then the author gave this horrible man a voice. He let this man lie to him and even wrote all his lies down as if they are true!! He befriended him and liked him and that says enough to me. Even Longo's mum warned him that everybody at first thought Longo was a nice guy but that he was a liar. Finkel did not want to help the prosecutors. No he was on the side of the defendant. What also angered me was the judge. That he allowed Longo free speech for hours and hours where he could again tell his fairy tale lies in his own sweet time and was again given a podium. I feel so sorry for the family of his victims. Only when he got to see the picture of poor Mary Jane's face did he realise who the real Longo was? Not before? Ha! No only when he got what he needed then only then he pretended to care about the victims!! So now the author was rewarded by the world with sales for his book but that was not enough both men got what they want the most out of all, A movie about them. I am so pissed off. A book filled with lies that are supposed to be the truth. The author never assumes that this fairy tale might not be true. The only thing he doubts are the killings. Two lying scumbags that formed a friendship. Both using each other. Both only for their own gain. Both not caring about the victims, the families of the victims.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sherry Chandler

    My son was assigned this book to read in an MFA class in nonfiction, and because he left it lying around, I picked it up and read the first few pages. It is a very well written book so I continued reading to the end. But the longer I read, the more I wondered why I was spending my time reading the tale of two liars and why I should believe Finkel's assertions that his association with Longo had allowed him to reform himself when he had just told us all the times Longo himself had sworn himself r My son was assigned this book to read in an MFA class in nonfiction, and because he left it lying around, I picked it up and read the first few pages. It is a very well written book so I continued reading to the end. But the longer I read, the more I wondered why I was spending my time reading the tale of two liars and why I should believe Finkel's assertions that his association with Longo had allowed him to reform himself when he had just told us all the times Longo himself had sworn himself reformed. I suppose this is why I prefer poetry and fiction. You know those are lies. While they may serve a higher truth, at least no one is swearing to you that they've told you the stark truth.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Erika Nerdypants

    I wanted to not like this book, really, I did. What's to like about the story of a husband brutally murdering his wife and three small children, especially when that story is told by an investigative reporter fired from the New York Times for falsifying details of a cover story? And yet, there is no denying that Michael Finkel wrote a page turner here, that's riveting precisely because this is the meeting of two, in the end very similar narcissists. Because if there is one thing Finkel does in t I wanted to not like this book, really, I did. What's to like about the story of a husband brutally murdering his wife and three small children, especially when that story is told by an investigative reporter fired from the New York Times for falsifying details of a cover story? And yet, there is no denying that Michael Finkel wrote a page turner here, that's riveting precisely because this is the meeting of two, in the end very similar narcissists. Because if there is one thing Finkel does in telling Chris Longo's story, it is expose himself. This is a fascinating account of what two men, primarily obsessed with themselves and their own status and reputation call "friendship", but what really turns out to be a cat and mouse game, where as the reader I couldn't be sure who was using whom and for what purpose. Sadly, the truth about what exactly happened to Longo's young family never emerges, and if you're looking for answers as to why this tragedy occurred, this is not the place to find them.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Morgan Williams

    This book starts out as a somewhat interesting look at what can happen to a journalist, or a writer of creative non-fiction, if they stray from the truth. He is, presumably, completely honest in his account of his disgrace with the New York Times, and his apparent willingness to help others avoid his mistakes is quite admirable. Unfortunately, the book quickly turns into the literary equivalent of one of those sordid television courtrooms, and his personal involvement with Longo overshadows what This book starts out as a somewhat interesting look at what can happen to a journalist, or a writer of creative non-fiction, if they stray from the truth. He is, presumably, completely honest in his account of his disgrace with the New York Times, and his apparent willingness to help others avoid his mistakes is quite admirable. Unfortunately, the book quickly turns into the literary equivalent of one of those sordid television courtrooms, and his personal involvement with Longo overshadows whatever point the book was meant to have.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kimba Tichenor

    This book chronicles the relationship that developed between disgraced NYT writer Michael Finkel and Christian Longo, who murdered his wife and 3 children. The two men become friends after Finkel has been fired from the NYT for falsifying information in a news story. In a bizarre turn of events, Finkel learns that a murderer while on the run had taken his name and identity as his own. Wanting to learn why him, he writes Christian Longo and thus begins their intimate friendship, one characterized This book chronicles the relationship that developed between disgraced NYT writer Michael Finkel and Christian Longo, who murdered his wife and 3 children. The two men become friends after Finkel has been fired from the NYT for falsifying information in a news story. In a bizarre turn of events, Finkel learns that a murderer while on the run had taken his name and identity as his own. Wanting to learn why him, he writes Christian Longo and thus begins their intimate friendship, one characterized by mutual sharing of their life stories and dreams. As condition of friendship, both pledge absolute honesty and yet neither man proves capable of delivering on that promise. As an exploration of the thin line between truth, deception, and fiction, the book is a fascinating read. Christian Longo gives multiple versions of the events that led to the murder of his family: first declaring his complete innocence, then claiming that he only murdered two family members, and then finally stating that he murdered all family members. With each explanation, the reasons shift and it becomes clear that each version is aimed at pleasing his listener. While it is hardly surprising that a murderer would be prone to making excuses for his behavior, Finkel's explanation of his transgressions is more disturbing. It becomes evident to the reader and eventually Finkel himself, that the two men are not different in kind, but only in degree. Each casts the truth aside in order to please others, in order to present themselves in a better light, and in order to save face. And while by the end of the story, the author wants us to be convinced that he has realized the dangers of the path that he has been following and that he is repulsed by the bond that he formed with Christian Longo...this reader, at least, was not completely convinced. I could not overcome the sense that like the murderer, the author was still in denial, still lying to himself and the reader in order to save face. In other words, there is no real mea culpa, no redemption as the title would have one believe. And it is for this reason, I cannot give the book more than 3 stars.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Erin (from Long Island, NY)

    Wow! Lately I’ve just been devouring all types of thrillers, especially psychological thrillers, that’s just what I love.. when I came across a list of true crime books. Remembering how I used to enjoy this genre, I looked through a few of them & this 1 sounded pretty interesting. I’m actually shocked at how good it turned out to be! I couldn’t put it down! The author, a newly disgraced journalist, & his subject, a pathological liar & murderer, actually had quite a bit in common! Those parallels Wow! Lately I’ve just been devouring all types of thrillers, especially psychological thrillers, that’s just what I love.. when I came across a list of true crime books. Remembering how I used to enjoy this genre, I looked through a few of them & this 1 sounded pretty interesting. I’m actually shocked at how good it turned out to be! I couldn’t put it down! The author, a newly disgraced journalist, & his subject, a pathological liar & murderer, actually had quite a bit in common! Those parallels are what made the book extraordinarily interesting to me, but the story was compelling on its own as well. You don’t have to be a true crime junkie to “get” this 1.. There’s quite a bit of human nature in there, and how this man reacted to pressure by lying & deceiving, time & time again. This was the authors first book, a venture he undertook at a pivotal time in his own life, so I’m pleasantly surprised to see there have been several others since.. I’ll definitely be looking into those too & I feel excited that now I have this other genre to discover. If anyone has any true crime recommendations, please let me know! & I do absolutely recommend this 1 to everyone, even if true crime isn’t usually your thing.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Brittany

    I wanted to give this two stars, but I had to add a star simply because this was such a page turner for me. Two extremely narcissistic personalities competing to one up each other. There wasn't anything truly outstanding about any of the information obtained by Finkel from Longo regarding his case, so if that is what you are looking for you might try another source. There was however, a look in to the ways habitual liars even lie to themselves. Always trying to rationalize and justify their acti I wanted to give this two stars, but I had to add a star simply because this was such a page turner for me. Two extremely narcissistic personalities competing to one up each other. There wasn't anything truly outstanding about any of the information obtained by Finkel from Longo regarding his case, so if that is what you are looking for you might try another source. There was however, a look in to the ways habitual liars even lie to themselves. Always trying to rationalize and justify their actions. Longo though, I believe, has deeper seeded issues than the average narcissist. I couldn't turn the page fast enough, mostly because I couldn't wait to see what was going to come out of either one's mouth.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    Such a fascinating story!!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lynda

    I was absolutely mesmerised by this True Story. Couldn't put it down!!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Littrell

    Brilliantly done, but unsettling I found this fascinating. I stayed up until two o'clock in the morning to finish it. It is a true crime story written in a clear, elegant style. Every sentence is polished, and every sentence is planned and placed in exactly the right place. There is no obvious striving for effect, no lurid prose, no fancy writing. Michael Finkel employs what George Orwell once called the invisible style. The writing is so unobtrusive, so deliberate in not calling attention to its Brilliantly done, but unsettling I found this fascinating. I stayed up until two o'clock in the morning to finish it. It is a true crime story written in a clear, elegant style. Every sentence is polished, and every sentence is planned and placed in exactly the right place. There is no obvious striving for effect, no lurid prose, no fancy writing. Michael Finkel employs what George Orwell once called the invisible style. The writing is so unobtrusive, so deliberate in not calling attention to itself that what the reader experiences is the story itself, pure and simple. Or stories. The book is like a film or a commercial novel in that there is a main plot and a subplot. The main plot is the story of Christian Longo who murdered his wife and three children and then ran to Mexico where he pretended to be Michael Finkel, ace reporter for the New York Times. This was a startling coincidence because Finkel had just been fired from the Times for falsifying a story about cocoa plantation "slaves" in West Africa. He was disgraced and fallen from the pinnacle of journalistic prestige. That is the subplot. Both stories are interwoven together in a masterful way. And the sequence of events is presented in a dramatic--not a strictly chronological--way so that the tension is maintained and the reader is led to eagerly turn the pages. The overall story began when Finkel found out about Chris Longo impersonating him. Struck with the coincidence, he felt compelled to know more about Longo and why the accused murderer took on his name. He contacted Longo and worked hard to establish rapport and a friendship. His motive was to get as much information from Longo as he could in order to write a book. The book would fuse the story of his disgrace with that of a man who had murdered his family. The thread that ties the stories together is not just the initial coincidence but an obsession with honesty that haunted both men and the obvious lack of honesty that they both practiced. Both Finkel and Longo strove again and again to come completely clean about what they had done and what they were doing while using each other under the guise of friendship. Longo used Finkel as somebody to talk to (he had been isolated from the other prisoners and had almost no contact with anyone other than his lawyers) and as a sounding board for his defensive strategy. Finkel used Longo as a source for a story that would restart his career. As Finkel makes vivid, both men were more than a little desperate. At one point Finkel gives part of the voluminous correspondence he had with Longo to three shrinks. They conclude that Longo has a narcissistic personality. He may indeed be narcissistic, but more to the point, Longo is a psychopath. He has all the classic features: a charming personality; a behavioral record of lies and thefts and murders; a grotesque sense of ultimately caring about nobody but himself; and finally an ability to be completely without remorse and able to party after his crimes, as he did in Mexico. Ironically, I think it is Finkel who has at least a touch of the narcissistic personality. We can see this in his tendency toward an exaggerated sense of his own importance, first in imagining that the world would be all that interested in his story (ah, but he made the world interested by his skillful writing) and in this from page 267 (he's talking to Longo's lawyers who want ideas for Longo's defense): He writes, "I felt, at that moment, as though Longo's life was in my hands--that if I said the right thing, he'd be spared the death penalty." We can also see this in the tremendous amount of energy Finkel put into researching and writing this book. He desperately wanted to regain his reputation and to be regarded again as a top flight journalist. Both men are caught in a moral confusion about lies and honesty, Longo because he's a psychopath who doesn't understand how people can be so upset about lying since it would seen to be the natural thing to do if it might benefit you (sociopaths learn at an early age that they are supposed to be remorseful about lying, and that it's bad, but they never really appreciate why, and so they are fascinated with the dynamics); Finkel because as he freely admits has told many lies in his life including the lies that ended his career at the New York Times. Neither has apparently thought much about Emerson's "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." Neither seems to understand that it is not so much the absolute consistency of what you say as it is your motive for what you say and especially how what you say affects others. That is what counts. Most people know this. Furthermore everybody lies at one time or another, but not when bearing witness and not when the lives of other people might be adversely affected. I think what fascinated Finkel about Longo was that he could see in him a caricature of himself; and as long as he could imagine that Longo might not be guilty or as long as he didn't look too closely at the murders, that was tolerable. However after sitting through the trial and hearing Longo's grotesque self-serving lies about the murders and the horrific details, Finkel had to psychologically distance himself from his would-be, partial alter-ego. And rightly so since there is something terribly unsettling about their symbiotic relationship. But in the final analysis I say good for Michael Finkel. This is an outstanding work, a fine addition to a genre I like to call "participatory journalism." What Finkel learned about himself from this chancy venture is possibly as important as what this book has done for his career and for his self-esteem. --Dennis Littrell, author of the mystery novel, “Teddy and Teri”

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This book was recommended to me yesterday, and I finished it today. Obviously, I could not put it down. Literally. This is a memoir sprung from coincidence. The author, Finkel, is exposed for having created a composite character in a story he wrote for the New York Times Magazine, at the exact moment when a man named Christian Longo murders his family, flees to Mexico, and begins using Finkel's identity as a writer for the Times. I was drawn to the story originally for the true crime aspect of i This book was recommended to me yesterday, and I finished it today. Obviously, I could not put it down. Literally. This is a memoir sprung from coincidence. The author, Finkel, is exposed for having created a composite character in a story he wrote for the New York Times Magazine, at the exact moment when a man named Christian Longo murders his family, flees to Mexico, and begins using Finkel's identity as a writer for the Times. I was drawn to the story originally for the true crime aspect of it, but I quickly became engaged by the author's tale of his own downfall. In the end, I think this is the truly remarkable part of the book. The author was just hitting his stride as a journalist when he made the serious mistake of lying within an article about child slavery and poverty. He does not sidestep his mistake. In fact, he is so forthright about his own deceptive behavior, it is at times physically uncomfortable. In a book with several moments of high tension, nothing equals the description he gives of finally alerting his editors at the Times to the fictional aspect of what had been a well-received article. My stomach dropped along with his as he was marched across the eighth floor of the Times building to the editor-in-chief's office, where he was summarily fired. Finkel is also frank about the way in which he used the Longo connection to rebuild his writing career, and why ("Longo was the only person in my life I felt morally superior to. . . .") But even though the relationship between the two men was somewhat symbiotic (just as Finkel was using Longo, Longo needed the connection to the outside world that Finkel provided), it evolves to a surprising extent. Structurally, Finkel weaves his story with Longo's in such a way that the reader can't help but notice parallels between the two downfalls, despite the cavernous differences between the two men and their transgressions. It's tempting to dismiss the friendship Finkel forges with Longo as purely self-serving, a conclusion that could be bolstered by Finkel's sudden realization, during Longo's trial, that he actually despises this man who murdered his family. How convenient, one might think, that Finkel pretends to be a friend to Longo long enough to get the story but then declares his hatred of him at the last minute, to avoid appearing like an ally of a monster. But Finkel is so painstakingly careful to acknowledge the self-serving aspect of his friendship with Longo, both in the book and to Longo directly, that the reader sees beyond that aspect of it, or at least recognizes that however flawed, the men's friendship was mutually beneficial, too. In the end, it's the honesty of this book about deceit that got me. When Finkel starts drawing his own conclusions and lessons in the final chapters, I really felt like I'd reached them too. "My year with Longo made me see how a person's life could spiral completely out of control; how one could get lost in a haze of dishonesty; and how these things could have dire consequences." And when Finkel offers his apology to the Times for his own deception, I found myself choked up at the sincerity of it. I suppose that's largely a tribute to how thoroughly we are allowed to live inside his own mind, with his own regret. But it's also tied up in the stunning portrait Finkel delivers of Longo, as pathological a liar as one can imagine. We learn that there are different kinds of deception, and that all acts of contrition are not created equal.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Amy Roy

    I could not put it down. It is Saturday and there are so many things I should be doing, but I have sat, almost frozen in my comfy chair - turning page after page. This story is one that will stay with me for a while.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Buckley

    To be honest, I almost DNFed this book at first. I'm so glad I didn't! So, quick plot summary: Christian Longo, a man accused of killing his entire family, flees to Mexico and takes on the identity of Michael Finkel, a writer for the New York Times. Michael Finkel, however, is facing some rough times of his own. At the same time Christian is in Mexico, Michael is hiding out in his home, waiting for the Editor's Note to be published that will announce his termination from his position with the Tim To be honest, I almost DNFed this book at first. I'm so glad I didn't! So, quick plot summary: Christian Longo, a man accused of killing his entire family, flees to Mexico and takes on the identity of Michael Finkel, a writer for the New York Times. Michael Finkel, however, is facing some rough times of his own. At the same time Christian is in Mexico, Michael is hiding out in his home, waiting for the Editor's Note to be published that will announce his termination from his position with the Times. As he is waiting, Michael receives a phone call from a reporter at the Oregonian, telling him about the now convicted murderer that was using his identity. Michael goes to meet him, and this story tells the tale of their year in contact and the true story of Christian's deeds. This took me a long time to get into. The beginning is very dry since it's just background information and establishing characters. However, once Christian's life story began, I was hooked. Christian is an interesting man with a bad habit of lying, and I spent a lot of time trying to find the lies myself before Finkel pointed them out. What bothered me though was at one point, Finkel admitted that he liked to lie too, going into a detailed paragraph about his lying habits and tendencies. That made me question his reliability as an author since he opened this book by saying everything in it was true. Nevertheless, this story was gripping. Christian's life was a wild ride, even before the murders occurred. I don't know what I can reveal without spoiling anything, but Christian and Michael were both very interesting characters in this story. The relationship between Christian and Michael was amazing too. Throughout the story, you see a bond form between them, with Michael talking to Christian about his relationship with girlfriend Jill and Christian telling him about the fun things he and his family used to do together. They seemed like they had been friends for years, when in reality they only spent one year together. But looking deeper, you can see Michael's feelings begin to change when the trial begins. Overall, this book was captivating, and although I didn't love every second, I was definitely invested. Highly recommend.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ylenia

    2017 was definitely the year I fell in love with true crime! This was a Christmas gift that came early & I devoured it on Christmas Eve & the 25th. True Story is part memoir, part story of a murderer: Christian Longo. As it happened with other true crime novels I've read in the past, there was some type of connection between the author & the murderer; in this case Longo impersonated Finkel during the time he escaped in Mexico after the crime & then they got in touch. Longo was an interesting per 2017 was definitely the year I fell in love with true crime! This was a Christmas gift that came early & I devoured it on Christmas Eve & the 25th. True Story is part memoir, part story of a murderer: Christian Longo. As it happened with other true crime novels I've read in the past, there was some type of connection between the author & the murderer; in this case Longo impersonated Finkel during the time he escaped in Mexico after the crime & then they got in touch. Longo was an interesting person to read about, mostly because he lied during his entire life. The author, too, was caught lying in one of his articles & was then fired by the Times. During the entire book I was questioning every single thing Longo said. There's no way to know what really happened on the day he decided to kill his family, because he changed his story a couple of times. But knowing the author lied too in his past, about important things, made me question things he said as well. There was a bit of an introduction, the memoir part, where the author talked about his life & then the book heavily focused on Longo's life. I wished the parts about the trial were longer, though, since it's something I like to read about. Overall: a very interesting book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    This book is awesome. Going into it, I thought this book would be a somewhat intriguing murder/mystery tale. I was wrong. True Story, by Micahel Finkel, exceed the murder/mystery genre by telling a story that is as much about a friendship as it is a murder. The main premise of the book revolves around Michael Finkel-- a young, middle-aged journalist, working for the NY Times. His life is very average until one day it is discovered that the boy used in his most recent story does not even exist; r This book is awesome. Going into it, I thought this book would be a somewhat intriguing murder/mystery tale. I was wrong. True Story, by Micahel Finkel, exceed the murder/mystery genre by telling a story that is as much about a friendship as it is a murder. The main premise of the book revolves around Michael Finkel-- a young, middle-aged journalist, working for the NY Times. His life is very average until one day it is discovered that the boy used in his most recent story does not even exist; rather, he is merely a conglomeration of facts from different people and places in Africa. When Michale is fired from the Times, he experiences severe depression and retreats into the safety home until one day he gets a call. An alleged murderer and child-killer is using his name. I'll leave it at that. I would highly recommend this book because it is so interesting and tells a truly mind-boggling story. This is now one of my favorite boooks. I rate this book a 10/10.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    WHAT A BUNCH OF CRAP!!!!!!! Ok so let me get this straight..... A New York Times writer is found to be a fraud, and his way of making his "Journalistic Comeback" is doing a story on a News-Worthy story that NO ONE CAN MANAGE TO ATTAIN....he's blinded by Longos Con then when the wool is lifted he's angry/"betrayed"????? WTF?!?! He knew the man was guilty.. (No one goes to Mexico after there whole family is MURDERED!!!! But Michael Finkel Pleads that you BELIVE his intentions are noble.... CRAP WHAT A BUNCH OF CRAP!!!!!!! Ok so let me get this straight..... A New York Times writer is found to be a fraud, and his way of making his "Journalistic Comeback" is doing a story on a News-Worthy story that NO ONE CAN MANAGE TO ATTAIN....he's blinded by Longos Con then when the wool is lifted he's angry/"betrayed"????? WTF?!?! He knew the man was guilty.. (No one goes to Mexico after there whole family is MURDERED!!!! But Michael Finkel Pleads that you BELIVE his intentions are noble.... CRAP Angry I finished this, ANGRY I PAID FOR THIS!!!!! I will not be watching the movie... Free on HBO or not... BLAH!!!!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    A quick and haunting read. Finkel, a disgraced NYTimes writer, finds out that a man suspected of murdering his entire family has been posing as him while on the lam in Mexico. His journalistic instincts, if not his career, still intact, the author embarks on a strange, intense relationship with the accused in the months leading up to his capital murder trial. As someone burned by the flames of invention, Finkel tries - tries - to give as "true" an account, of the relationship and the facts of th A quick and haunting read. Finkel, a disgraced NYTimes writer, finds out that a man suspected of murdering his entire family has been posing as him while on the lam in Mexico. His journalistic instincts, if not his career, still intact, the author embarks on a strange, intense relationship with the accused in the months leading up to his capital murder trial. As someone burned by the flames of invention, Finkel tries - tries - to give as "true" an account, of the relationship and the facts of the case, as possible.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Maureen

    This was an odd choice of book for me. I decided to read it for two reasons. One I saw the preview for the upcoming film about this story and knew I would need to read the book since the book is always better. And two the Christian Longo case was big news the first time I ever visited my favorite place on the planet, the Oregon coast. The trial was in the newspapers everyday we were in Oregon so I had a frame of reference starting out. This book is very well written and super fascinating. Not my This was an odd choice of book for me. I decided to read it for two reasons. One I saw the preview for the upcoming film about this story and knew I would need to read the book since the book is always better. And two the Christian Longo case was big news the first time I ever visited my favorite place on the planet, the Oregon coast. The trial was in the newspapers everyday we were in Oregon so I had a frame of reference starting out. This book is very well written and super fascinating. Not my usual fare but well worth the read.

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