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True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  4,644 ratings  ·  515 reviews
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
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published May 24th 2005 by Harper (first published 2005)
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Average rating 3.87  · 
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Sam Quixote
Apr 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jan 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, true-crime
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,
Simon Cleveland, PhD
Apr 26, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Sarju Shrestha Mehri
Mar 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Jennifer Willis
Mar 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 16, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: memoir, my-reviews
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!
Diane Yannick
Apr 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Jul 18, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club
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
Mary Frances
Oct 03, 2011 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Juletta Gilge
Jul 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
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.
Bonnie Faust
Sep 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
♥ Marlene♥

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
Kimberly Dawn
Feb 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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.
Sherry Chandler
Mar 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
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 ...more
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 ...more
Morgan Williams
Apr 29, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
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 ...more
Kimba Tichenor
Feb 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: true-crime
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 ...more
Nov 18, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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 ...more
Aug 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Such a fascinating story!!
Oct 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I was absolutely mesmerised by this True Story. Couldn't put it down!! ...more
Dennis Littrell
Apr 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime
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
Jan 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Amy Roy
Mar 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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.
Rachel Buckley
Feb 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Erin (from Long Island, NY)
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Jul 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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, exceeds 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 he discovers that the boy used in his most recent story does not even exist; rathe ...more

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....

Apr 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Jan 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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Michael Finkel is the author of "The Stranger in the Woods" and "True Story," which was adapted into a 2015 motion picture. He has reported from more than 50 countries and written for National Geographic, GQ, Rolling Stone, Esquire, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, and The New York Times Magazine. He lives with his family in western Montana and southern France. ...more

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“The fact that Longo himself was a skilled liar seemed to engender in him an ancillary condition in which he was distrustful of everyone else’s honesty.” 0 likes
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