tv Patrick Radden Keefe Rogues - True Stories of Grifters Killers Rebels... CSPAN August 14, 2022 8:55pm-10:01pm EDT
prohibited during tonight's event. welcome to the free library of philadelphia, i am a producer and editor here and tonight it is my pleasure to introduce patrick wright and keith -- patrick. and master of narrative nonfiction, he is the author of the new york times best s e, the secret history of the secularller dynasty -- the new york times bestseller, the secret history of the sackler dynasty. he is also an award winning staff writer and the author of the other books.
the snake head, an epic hill of the -- tail of the american dream and he wrote and hosted the podcast wind of change, selected as the podcast of 2020 by the guardian. it was us with his latest book, true stories of grifters, killers, rebels, and crooks. writing about such individuals, and swift money launderers, this is a collection of 12 of his articles about corruption, fraud, and power. the stories he writes in the book's prologue shows crime and
corruption, secrets and lies, as a permeable membrane separating illicit wolds. -- worlds. what shines through most brightly is his fascination of what makes us most human. we will be in conversation with carolyn, a national features wri ter, and a finalist for the 2001 full surprise. without further ado, join me in welcoming patrick radden keefe and carolyn to the library. [applause] >> welcome.
a great turnout. this is pretty wonderful. they asked me to introduce patrick tonight. i was reminded of what was said when he had to introduce -- someone had to introduce patrick. it is no secret, we hate him. [laughter] he is a normal gifted individual, empire pain was one of our 10 best books on the washington post. we all agreed, here he is with another splendid book. i cannot recommend this enough. it is a collection of over 12 years, 15 years in the new
yorker, a 12 year period. rogues and whatever and i am fascinated on how you pursue this. he has a master of the write around, when the subject will not speak to them, you have to write around them. i am in awe, i want to read a quote about patrick. every time he tells me a new story idea i feel that i will have a mini heart attack. another litigious criminal? can you do a celebrity profile or something? >> that is his wife. he is a master of the perfect landing, he gets these quotes, i would be leading with
them and you meet with them, he wrote about personally the elusive israeli billionaire who landed an iron mining deal for $160 million to rebellions -- reap billions. the western world saw africa as a place to get minerals and slaves, when you disembark from a plane, the corruption hits you almost as quickly as the heat. that is extraordinary. he pursued this individual. how did this story start? >> thank you for doing this and for that wonderful and
production and thank you for all of you for coming out. a. i love philadelphia, i ran the marathon here in the fall. i was a slightly painful experience, exacerbated by the weird thing that marathon supporters do, people are thrusting beer at me. it is great to be back here and thank you for coming out. that story was -- it took about a year. it started with back i heard there was a guy -- it started with this guy, he had started the diamond trade, he went to guinea in west africa and was after the huge iron ore deposit. guinea is one of the poorest countries in the world, there is a lot of corruption and he came
in with a small amount of money, he got to the rights to this deposit and he flipped it. for the price of some bribes, he was able to get the rights to the deposit and he turned around and sold half of the deposit to a big brazilian mining giant for $2.5 million. there was a new president in guinea who had campaigned on an anticorruption basis. he felt like you are this incredibly poor country, we have these amazing natural resources, there is a great quote he said to me, how can we be so rich and yet so poor? it does not compute. you have these wealthy foreigners who came in and excluded these resources in a way that will not benefit the people. this new president, i was able to get an interview with him and i was able to go over to guinea and i interviewed him twice.
he is almost -- the man who bought the mind, he is him is like a bond villain, this tanned, good looking guy who does not really live in one place, he has a private jet, he works out every day, he never gives interviews. i had to chase them all around, i went to his corporate offices in london. i thought i may be able to meet with him there, they said he already left for paris. so i went to paris. they say he just got on his private jet to israel. i had to call and get approval but i said i will fly to israel. i want a guarantee i will meet him i am there.
they said we cannot give you a guarantee. there was a lot more haggling and eventually i went and met him in the south of france where he was staying on his megayacht off of the coast. >> as i entered the lobby, i brushed back a slim tanned man wearing a blue linen shirt that was split in half way -- wasn't halfway. he seizes my hand and apparently puts a lot of stock in a handshake. >> that was one of those interviews where it was revealing in the end. writing about billionaires, they are so, if you do get the interview, they have pr people,
it is almost not worth the interview because they are so constrained about where they will let you go. in this case, it ended up the juice was worth the squeeze. >> that is a wonderful story. let us talk about amy bishop. not as happy -- happy is never the word. amy bishop, this is a sad story. she was a neurobiologist in the university of alabama and she shot six people one day when she was denied tenure. three of them fatally. what her lawyer said to you, amazing quote. there are people in our community walking time bombs, they are so hard to identify. the morning after she was
arrested, as police called the sheriff in huntsville, he has this and you are in the room when she goes off and -- i want to talk about this effect on your writing. i would never -- three pages in, it is a holy crap moment, as a woman you have in custody, she shot her brother back in 1986. women murder very rarely. had is the detective story that you chose to follow -- that is the detective story you chose to follow. >> all credit goes to my editor at the new yorker, he brought
this story to me about this mass shooting in 2010 in alabama. i said i had no desire to write that story. i do not care about their motivations. he said, here is what is interesting. in 2010 she shot her colleagues, and emerged after the mass shooting that in 1986 when she was 21 years old she had a shot and killed her brother with a shotgun. her teenage brother. there was one witness her mother. when the cops came, the mother said i saw the whole thing. it was an accident. when my editor said to me was the story is not amy bishop the mass shooter, the story is a mother in 1986 with only two kids and she witnesses one kill the other and there is a split-second decision, what you tell them?
maybe it was an accident, maybe it was not? you see the motivation that mother may have to say that it was because she does not want to lose both of them. my editor says that is the story and the reason that is the story is because any of us who are parents would have to think about what we would do in that situation. it is not mean that we are people our people -- does not mean that we are people our good people or bad people. the town had covered up this thing that happened. out of compassion for the family. people kept asking if i have kids. that i was a prerequisite for understanding for what -- that
that was a prerequisite for understanding. >> we move away from huntsville very quickly. the story, she was 21, her brother was 19 or 18. it happened quite a while ago and she has gone on to make his life for her. you show that this -- >> after this happened, leaving aside the fact she pulled the trigger of the shotgun, imagine if you had a young kid who witnessed the death of a sibling. she never got any therapy. they did not move from the house, she continued to, her bedroom was right across from her brother's bedroom. it is clearly, there should have
been some kind of intervention back in the 1980's to make sure that this person was ok. what we learned in 2010 is that she was not. >> when you are spending a year on that, you are spending a year on this we allow? -- this story along? >> the reporting i do is very stop start. people who will not talk to you and in that case i initially did not have amy bishop or her parents. slowly, what happened was the parents were not talk to me, they are not given any interviews to anybody -- would not talk to me, they had not given any interviews to anybody. the person who says i will not talk, they keep getting phone calls from people that they know . here are the questions that the
reporter asked. we were fact checking the piece when i got -- i do not know how familiar this is, a very distinctive thing where you get a phone call and it says you are receiving a telephone call from an inmate in a penitentiary. i interviewed her over the course of a couple of phone calls. >> in a way, she is not someone you know and yet you don't know. >> i get questions about the sackler family, what would you ask them if you could sit down in a room with them? the funny thing about that question is you are dealing with people who are so deep in denial
that for somebody like me to come along and start asking tough questions is not actually going to be that fruitful. i would like to think i am such a ninja journalism that i would ask the question that disarms them. and i would have gotten away with it too! that is not what happened. they have a lie that they have told themselves, and world have constructed in which they are not the bad guy. that is the world that they live. when you start asking questions that chip away at that, usually what happens is they double down on whatever it is they have been telling themselves all of these years. >> what about the parents? >> i have had this situation a few times. i just published an article with a similar scenario in the article was about a guy who had done some pretty terrible things.
i interviewed the parents. i feel great compassion for parents in those situations. it is like a perfect bind. you are connected to your child and your child does awful things . how you make sense of that and i think a lot of the time the answer is denial. it is hard because i feel great compassion for these people but also my job is not to protect them. my job is to get out the truth or the best version of the truth that i can. in the case of the bishops, i visited with them twice. they would say that--it did not make sense. the second time i saw them with after i talked to amy and she had told me how she had a
suicide attempt. i was talking to these two parents and i said amy told me about the suicide attempts. they said that there was no suicide attempt. she did tell me -- they say no, she was carving pumpkins and she was testing the knife to see how sharp it would be on her wrist. [laughter] and not a mean -- it is excruciating. clearly, this is a reality that they have constructed together that they can live with. my job is to -- to say no, that does not make sense. >> you really understand and weigh the family dynamic in in their denial. it is a mystery you served in terms of the family dynamics --
solved in terms of the family dynamics. there are some lighter stories! [laughter] >> shades of darkness. >> you profiled mark burnett who is responsible in some ways we had donald trump as a president. he was the mastermind of the celebrity apprentice. you do not get to him but you get so many wonderful details about him. the good news is many people on the apprentice wanted to talk to you. i want to read this because this is extraordinary to me. this is holy moly! a weekly series of business challenges, trump was frequently unprepared for the
sessions. with little grasp of who had performed well, sometimes a candidate distinguished herself only to get fired on a whim by trump. the editors were obliged to our verse engineer the episode scouring hundreds of hours of footage to emphasize the few moments when the exemplary candidate may have slipped up in an attempt to assemble an artificial version of history in which trump's decision made sense. [laughter] here is another thing. the apprentice portrayed trump as a plutocrat with impeccable business instinct and unparalleled wealth, i tighten climbing out of helicopters or into limousines. we know he was a fake, he went through how many bankruptcies but we made him out to be the
most important person in the world. it is like making the court jester the king. that is the chef's kiss to me! we saw chip furniture is, a crumbling empire at every turn, our job was to make it seem otherwise. how did you come to this story ? >> this was my editor's idea again. people come up with their own ideas and whose names i would never come up with their own ideas. everything is handed to them by editors. for me it is roughly two of mind to a model of their -- to one of theirs. most people agree that the
apprentice what this really significant moment in putting him on the national stage and amplifying his brand for a lack of a better word. the other thing that was interesting is when he came into office, he really still thought about the optics of reality tv. when he announced his candidacy, there is a moment where he and melania come down the escalator at trump tower, that actual sequence, that happened in the apprentice. it was an outtake. all of the supporters who were there that day were actually extras who had been hired to come and cheer in the same way you would for reality tv. you would say when he is a shipmate like they shot me on the apprentice. my editor says it seems so interesting.
this guy who we have all come to know and love or hate, he emerged from the forge of reality tv. the person who did this is this totally unlikely, absolute hustler. this guy from east london who was a british paratrooper, he was going to go and be a mercenary in south america. he left the military and his mother had a vision and said she not one him to do anything involving dunn's -- i want him to do anything involving guns. he was an illegal immigrant, he became a male nanny wealthy
families in southern california. he was the paratrooper it turned nanny. -- paratrooper turned nanny. [laughter] he had a show called eco-challenge and his big breakthrough was that there was a crazy swedish early pioneer -- little known outside of sweden, this swedish show called expedition robinson which involved a bunch of swedish people who were on an island and had to fend for themselves with a bunch of cameras. burnett saw it and he licensed the show and says i want to give it a new title, survivor. from there he did the apprentice, he and trump had this strange relationship where he recognized a charisma that
trump had. had this amazing dynamic. burnett ends up in the situation where he did not want -- he would not talk to me because he did not want to be associated with trump because he was clearly so scared. >> he is born again? >> his third wife, touched by an angel. i literally married an angel! he is born again. a fun dive into hollywood. to me there was a deeper theme in that piece which is at a certain point everything became entertainment. there is no such thing, politics is entertainment by other means.
he was at the enemies. -- emmy's. >> he called out mark burnett and said if he gets elected it is mark burnett's fault. if there is a wall, we will throw you over it. burnett went on to run mgm. which he is doing today. i think he is laughing all the way to the bank. >> is in a crate when somebody close to do yourself -- isn't it great when somebody quotes you to yourself? eyes that in the words of one ex-wife, have a photoshop twinkle.
would allow in the words of one ex-wife -- what i love is the words of one ex-wife. 1. may be the other one does not agree? let us talk about the thomas jefferson wine. the first story in the collection. in some ways it is sillier, rich people messing up which i kind of like and it also stars and features a coke brother, bill. he does not -- >> he is not a political coke. >> you have them living in a 35 1000 square-foot anglo caribbean style house in palm beach which you visited. he had to excavate his passion
>> they were expanding. >> he had so much crap in the basement including wine. he likes to buy things. he says i bought so much art, so many guns, if someone is out to cheat me, i want him to pay for it. also, he said, relaxing a bit, it is a fun detective story. in two years he hired a retired fbi agent who was working with lots of money. he estimated that he had spent more than $1 million on this case, twice what he paid for the wine. let us talk about counterfeit wine and thomas jefferson
bottles. >> i have a friend who -- i do not know if in listens to this podcast, -- i do not know if anyone in this audience listens to this podcast, michael is a long-term friend of mine. he is into very interesting stories. my friend michael emailed me in early 2006 or seven and said i have a new story for you. counterfeit wine. i thought what is counterfeit wine? what does that even mean? it turned out that over the last 30 years there has been a huge inflation in the price in wine and all of these rich people who
generally have acquired a lot of money fast and have a wool class -- world-class wine cellar. as whole thing is crazy -- the whole thing is crazy, they could never bring all of the wind in their lifetimes -- drink all of their wine in their lifetimes. why he would buy 60,000 bottles of wine when he is 60 years old and there is no way he can bring in all? he says he will never shoot custer's rifle. as all of that was happening, and there were these really crafty wine fraudsters who realized this is the perfect crime.
you can introduce these fake bottles which look like -- and the either look like really antique wine or a lot of the time the price of the wine will vary from vintage to vintage. sometimes you can make an 83 look like an 82. the collectors have huge sellers who may not get to the bottle in question. when they do open the wind, most of these people cannot tell the difference. it is totally the emperor's new clothes. you spend a little more on a bottle of wine and you are asking is this any better than the cheaper bottle? i do not know. >> a lot of really old wine is not even drinkable.
you have this wonderful quote, there has been more 1945 wine consumed than was ever produced to begin with. >> that same woman said that she thinks of the vast majority of fake wine is happily consumed. the reason is it is the perfect crime! there was a wine director for a series of super fancy restaurants in vegas. he told me the story about how one night they had these three bankers from new york who were in town celebrating some big deal that they had done and to celebrate they ordered a bottle of 1982 wine. very fancy french wine. viscous self worth a $1000 a
bottle -- this could sell for more than $6000 a bottle. they decide to order another. they make a big show and this one just tastes off, it tastes weird, something is wrong. they say we have to return this, we are sorry, the wine director is apologetic. we will bring you out another one, there is going to be something wrong with the second bottle. the third bottle they bring out his great. the guys love it. afterwards, they bring the three bottles into the kitchen and they are trying to figure out the problem with the second bottle.
it was genu=wine. -- genu-wine. >> this is the great white whale, i will never get it, it will do me in. >> sometimes. i think i have gotten better over the years at knowing -- i am big on storytelling, having a clear narrative that runs through something. whether it be an article, each one of these will take you 45 minutes to read. you can really get into it but you are going to be done in a sitting.
it does not make you feel bad about yourself because you cannot finish it. something like my secular book or the book i did before and the troubles. there are these big issues, sometimes my frustration as a reader is if i am reading a book, i can tell that the material is really rich and important. not enough thought has been given to how do you tell this as a story? where do you start? it is almost as if the writer taser interest for granted -- takes your interest for granted. i cannot see the path through it. i know that when the writer
feels that way, the reader feels that way too. it starts on the back of the envelope, if i had to tell you this story in five minutes, for the characters, what are the big turns and twists and where does it end? at her to lay that out in a schematic way, -- i try to lay that out in a schematic way. there are some words that are so dark and dense, i would not go to nick. there. there is a story i want to tell, but i cannot gather enough of the kind of material that i want. i will not tell you what it is in case there are any devious journalists in here that want to
steal it from me. there is an idea that my editor brought me that is amazing. it will be an incredible piece but nobody wants to talk. it is in the criminal justice system and the bad guys do not want to talk, their lawyers do not want to talk, the prosecutors do not want to talk. i am -- my hands are tied. that happens. >> you did el chapo? briefly before -- this is amazing and the book opens with this. this is a murderous machine of a drug lord and i am sure that your wife was thrilled with this. tell your readers what happened after you did the piece with --? what happened after that?
i told this story on the late show last night. >> hopefully none of you saw it. i wrote this big piece about him in 2012. when he was caught in 2014, i wrote this piece called the hunt for el chapo. had a lot of access and i talked to the mexican forces and the dea and people who had worked for him and the cartel. i do not talk to him. it is a write around. the piece came out and a few
days later i got a voicemail in the office from a guy who said he was a lawyer for the guzman family. this made me nervous. [laughter] i had not thought about him reading the piece or anyone in his circle reading the piece. a lot of the mexican newspapers picked up on the revelations. he did not strike me as a new yorker subscriber. when i mentioned this to seth meyers he said no he is, he only reads the cartoons. i was nervous and i made a few phone calls and i called a guy who was a source for me in the government and he ran a few checks and said yes, he really is in the attorney for the guzman family. he is 60% cartel and 40% lawyer. [laughter] i was getting more and more
nervous. i did not tell my wife about this at all. when i called the guy, i thought he was going to bring up in the piece i said i had told the world that el chapo guzman one of his big issues was he needed to get viagra. that was a whole logistical thing because he was moving from a safe house and they had to make sure he had plenty of viagra. this is the most module country in the world? you know he is the most macho man in this country? you told everybody? [laughter] i thought -- i was ready to have the viagra conversation. [laughter] he had this starchy, formal way of talking. he said when he established i was the guy who wrote the article. he said else in -- el se
nior is ready to write his memoirs. i wasn't ready for the viagra thing, this was not what i had seen coming. that is a book i would love to read! he said, but sir, is it a book you would like to write? that was a crazy opportunity or i was offered the opportunity -- where i was offered the opportunity to ghost write for el chapo. i am alive to tell you about it! >> it will take some questions -- we will take some questions.
do not be shy. any questions? >> my question to start is i read empire of pain, you were under the spotlight from the sackler's and i was concerned about your safety and your family. they seemed to be staking out your home i lawyering up against you. -- and lawyering up against you. how did that resolve? >> they kept up the pressure right up until the eve of the book coming out. it was a day or two before publication and i was when up to for the today show. the producer was getting these various text messages and emails from their legal and pr people. the book came out and they went
dark. they have not said anything. they have not sued me. part of the story i was trying to tell in the book, i think with the sackler's, it is a bit like with harvey weinstein or jeffrey epstein or any of these powerful people who get away with terrible things for a long time. when it finally all comes out, there is a natural reaction of how they could get away with it for so long. the answer a lot of the time is they surround themselves with these people who are these kinds of ostensibly respectable service providers. private investigators, and consultants for higher. -- hire.
it was unpleasant getting two years of legal threats, i could tell you some stories. there was the episode i talk about what we had somebody sticking out my house and they have never confirmed that was them. it was the only project i was working on at the time. all of that was unpleasant but it was important for me to tell the story because the truth is they have been doing that for 20 years. part of the reason they got out why they got away with it for as long as they did. >> i wonder, how do you make people talk to you? do you pay them? >> i am not allowed to pay people. if you were a sociologist you could pay people for interviews
and that is ethically permissible. in journalism, there is no scenario that you can do that at all. i will say it the interest of honesty, there are ways around that. it has vary from project to project, i wrote a book about chinatown. i could not pay them for their time, but these people are working incredibly hard jobs. i would say could i buy you a meal? that is permissible. at least could i buy you lunch or dinner when you get off of work? i am not allowed to pay people. i try to meet people where they are. to persuade them that i am going to -- i do not have an agenda. i want to figure out what the truth is. the truth is often complicated. i write these long articles that
embrace complexity. even the villains in my stories, i want to try and understand how they see their world. that is my pitch to people and sometimes it works. sometimes it does not. the other thing to that point about the write rent with powerful people, -- write about powerful people, they use access. hedge fund managers, reality tv producers, bankers, pharmaceutical executives, you say i am going to w aboutr you andi they say too badte -- write
about you and they say it too bad i will not interview you. i do it anyway. as a train is leaving the station. you can get on, if you do not, at the train is still going to leave the station. >> where the sackler's aware of where you are working? >> i have stories! i had not even started writing. i wrote a piece in the new yorker which was putting a spotlight on the family in a way that had not happened up to that point. they did not like that. initially i was not going to write a book and then i decided i would write a book. my publisher put out at an announcement -- out an announcement, it was not written
up, you would need a subscription to some publishing newsletter. we got a 17 base legal -- 17 page legal letter. that was the beginning of it. that never let up until the book came out. this is somebody who knows a thing or two about all of this. >> are you as pretentious as your wife says you are? [laughter] for any of those who follow patrick on twitter, he is a great follow. >> thank you, ed. >> she called him incredibly pretentious! go ahead! >> my bad! [laughter] >> i want to publicly thank you for what empire pain has done,
shining a light on a family that is responsible for more deaths in america than any other family that i know of. the other question is -- two questions. in your new book which i actually got halfway through already, if there was one story if someone said i can read one story, is there one story you would recommend? and painkiller, coming out on netflix, there is a total media lockdown on it. what can you tell us about that? >> a little bit of context. this is ed, he has been an incredible activist long before i had ever heard the name sackler. he has been on the story and fighting for justice and accountability.
an inspiration to me and many. thank you for coming. the -- my wife gave an interview to a guy who was writing a profile of me in a new york magazine. on an on the record review, sheet describe me as pretentious. -- she described me as pretentious. she really did say that. in terms of one story, i guess the amy bishop story. it is a dark one, it is one many of us could relate to in weird ways we may not anticipate. it stays with me.
it doesn't linger with me. -- it does linger with me. painkiller is a limited series that will be on netflix in the fall. that is based on the book painkiller by barry meyer and on my article about the sackler family. i have been somewhat involved, but not that closely involved. they shot it toronto in six parts. richard sackler is played by matthew broderick. i think it should be pretty interesting. the director has made a lot of movies. he directed all six episodes. keep an eye out, that is on netflix in the fall. some of you may have seen
dopesick. i think it is different enough it is worth watching both. >> hello. as far as the sackler's are concerned, are they still pushing these awful drugs? they were a world of denial, how do you stay in denial when the bodies are stacking up? people are suffering and in pain? how do you stay in denial and stack up billions of dollars and continue to stay in denial? >> that is a great question. i spent years trying to understand. how to answer the first part of your question, purdue pharma ends up going into bankruptcy. it seems weird that you have a
company that is made so much money and so many billions of dollars selling drugs that they could go into bankruptcy. all of these lawsuits against the company for the impacts of oxycontin. over a decade for the company declared bankruptcy, quietly, and the family was pulling money out of the company. they took more than $10 billion out of the company. when they got $10 billion out of the company and all of these lawsuits against the company, they said too bad, no money left in the company. the company had to declare bankruptcy. purdue pharma got wound down. they are still selling oxycontin. there is a new company that is selling oxycontin, they continue to sell oxycontin, the brother that helped create the opioid
crisis -- drug that helped create the opiod crisis. on the denial, it is weird. this is a family that they started marketing this drug in 96. the idea was it was not addictive, nobody knew that. almost immediately it turns out that there are all kinds of people getting addicted and overdosing and dying. their kids dying. ward is getting back to the company and for me when i look back at that, i'm talking about 1999. i cannot imagine having a multibillion dollar company and a product and getting informed kids are dying and not putting
the brakes on or at least saying what have we done wrong? they did not. they cap doubling down -- kept doubling down. i think there are two things that came into play. one, the family and company made this pivot, a very american pivot. they said, the drug is not the problem. the problem is the people abusing it. people with poor character, bad values, addictive personalities. they cannot help themselves. we created this great drug and they are screwing atop. if people are dying, it is their fault. we can chuckle at that now. but that is the most american idea imaginable. guns do not kill people, people kill people, right?
you can sell a dangerous thing and as long as somebody else is making some decision somewhere downstream you don't have anything to answer for morally or legally. i think that was part of it. the other part of it for me that was surprising is from the outside, i am not a billionaire. from the outside, i would have thought that if you are a billionaire, you can get just the best advisors. you would have liked state-of-the-art advice all the time. what i found looking at the sackler's is it is kind of the opposite. you have all of these people around you whose job depends on keeping you happy. i think this is true of donald trump, of mark zuckerberg, of any number of people who are very wealthy and powerful. but, sometimes they seem disconnected reality -- disconnected from reality. the reason is that they have all these people around them who when they say day is not, at two plus two is five, they say,
absolutely sir, you are right. those people over there don't have the right narrative. you are misunderstood, that is the problem. part of what you see with the settlers, part of the reason they are still in denial is, amy bishop's parents is two people in the house alone. they have this reality they have had to manufacture on their own. the settlers have an army of people reaffirming every day their crazy ideas about what is happening in the world and their own responsibility. i don't fully understand it, but that is as close as i can come to an explanation. >> one last question. >> yes. >> there is a lot of tension on the book -- in the book, obviously, on conflict between protestants and catholics.
you interview robbie shane and a lot of other people. i wonder how you can keep your distance and not get sucked into each side so to speak. >> yet, i think about this all the time. with that book, it is funny. i was just in northern ireland talking about that book. i thought it was such a great english expression, bringing coal to newcastle. do they really need to hear from me about the troubles? but the thing is, i think being an outsider really helps. when i started work on that book i thought being an outsider would hurt because it is a pretty clannish society. 143 it's very small. everybody knows everybody. i have this obnoxiously irish name, but my family and i came over 100 years ago. so i don't have any close connection to ireland per se. i found it actually really
helped to not be from there. the -- there are probably parts of philadelphia like this. if you go to northern ireland the thing that is really interesting is somebody from northern ireland, as soon as they open their mouth and start talking, people can hear their accent and as soon as they hear the accent they immediately start making judgments. they are like, i know roughly where you from. what school you went to, what religion you are, how you vote, what teams you support. they make all these judgments. they may be right, or they may be not. but there is this thing with accents where everybody's trying to locate everybody else. and i was like an alien. i parachuted in from new york. which, i think was helpful in terms of me not getting sucked in. it allowed me to be, not objective, per se, but it allowed me to tell the story as
i saw it and not feel like i had to satisfy one constituency or another. i wanted to write a book that would tick everybody off equally, which it did. the other thing that -- was that i could leave. i don't live in west belfast. there is a murderer at the heart of the book that happened in 1972 and at the end of the book i name the person i think committed the murder. that person is still alive and they had never been implicated before. it would be hard for me to write that if i lived in belfast. but because i could leave, i was able to. it is a strange thing where sometimes being an american helped. thank you so much. >>[applause]