From New York Times-bestselling author Nick Bilton comes the thrilling inside story of the rise and fall of Ross Ulbricht, aka the Dread Pirate Roberts, the founder of the online black market Silk Road.
In his New York Times
bestseller Hatching Twitter
, Nick Bilton gave readers an astonishingly reported, riveting, and impeccably crafted story of the politics and power struggles behind the founding of Twitter. Now Bilton turns his investigative journalism to the story of Ross Ulbricht, the notorious and enigmatic founder of a drug empire called Silk Road.
In 2011, Ulbricht, a 29-year-old libertarian idealist and former Boy Scout, launched "a website where people could buy anything anonymously, with no trail whatsoever that could lead back to them." He called it Silk Road, opened for business on the Dark Web, and christened himself the Dread Pirate Roberts (after the Princess Bride
character). The site grew at a tremendous pace, quickly becoming the go-to spot to buy or sell drugs, spying software, forged passports, counterfeit cash, guns, grenades, or rocket launchers.
The Silk Road soon caught the attention of the Feds, who embarked on an epic two-year manhunt for the site's proprietor. Ulbricht, in the meantime, struggled to maintain control of his double life and his marketplace, gradually abandoning his libertarian ideals to rule Silk Road with increasingly authoritarian force. At one point, he engaged the services of hired hit men to take out employees he felt had wronged him. Soon, some of the Federal agents who were supposed to be hunting for Ulbricht switched sides and joined him.
This is a true life thriller spurred by the defining clash of our time: the new world of libertarian-leaning, anonymous, decentralized web advocates and the old world of government control, order, and the rule of law. Bilton's dazzling rendering and gift for narrative make for an endlessly fascinating drama.