Last year I did a Patrick Radden Keefe double-header: Say Nothing and Empire of Pain. It was… a doozy. Keefe writes incredibly well (he’s got a slew of awards to prove it) and excels at deep dives into larger-than-life personalities. When Rogues: True Stories of Grifters, Killers, Rebels and Crooks went on sale on Chirp I scooped it up. Rogues is a collection of Keefe’s previous writings for The New Yorker. Keefe describes in his preface how journalists often develop a lane, and while he doesn’t necessarily feel like he has one, he does have a habit of focusing on people who either flirt with or right out cross the line between legal and illegal, between moral and amoral.
The chapters share work from 2007-2019. Like any collection of writing there were stories I liked better than others, and some which were merely okay as far as I was concerned (There was also one I skipped entirely – I don’t want to know any more than I already do about Mark Burnett, Donald Trump, and The Apprentice). The first four chapters were all excellent. I was engaged with stories about wine forgery, Dutch organized crime, solving the Lockerbie Bombing, and insider trading scandals. The second half was more middle of the road with writing looking into El Chapo, Swiss banking, arms dealers, a defense attorney who specializes in defending the worst of the worst, and the ways in which Guinea’s diamond and other mineral riches were subsumed by Europeans. But Rogues ended on an absolute banger, Keefe’s article from 2017 about Anthony Bourdain. I went the audiobook route with this and I cannot suggest it enough. Keefe’s a good narrator, and it added a little extra something listening to him read his own work. Which might be part of the reason I enjoyed the Bourdain chapter so much – Keefe’s warmth about his subject shows through.
Bingo Square: Take the Skies. I read this while on a plane and there’s lots of air travel documented in the various lives of the rogues.