American Kingpin by Nick Bilton

The first time I ever heard about this 2017 book and the Silk Road was by Sam Parr from My First Million (The Story of Dark Web Kingpin Ross Ulbricht). Back then, I just looked the book up and moved on thinking I would eventually go back and have another look.

Then I realised that this book was written by Nick Bilton who authored Hatching Twitter, a well-written book I really enjoyed years ago. So I purchased the book and left it on my Kindle library for many months until I picked up with sudden curiosity behind the Silk Road and its creator, Ross Ulbricht.

Nick Bilton shows his greatest ability in researching and telling the story seamlessly. I found myself wondering multiple times how he describes the narratives as if he has seen it first-hand. His amazing talent baffles me.

In this YouTube video (Is Nick Bilton's Book on Ross Ulbricht and the Silk Road a 'Media Lynching?'), Nick disagrees with the sentence Ross has to serve, and asks some questions to the interviewer which made me to think for a while. The fact that there are a slew of Ross supporters in the comments is quite surprising to me.

In all, I agree with the final verdict delivered by the judge. I'm not sure if sentencing two lifetimes plus forty years is fair, but Ross did commit serious crimes that can't be excused by his libertarian views. He knew all well what he was doing, and he was ready to face the consequences. So he did.

I first thought this penalty was merely from setting an example out of activities in the dark web. Now I think less about such motives. All counts he's convicted on are valid, and the Silk Road's repercussions are orders of magnitude deadlier in a global scale.

Capturing Ross Ulbricht was a team effort. Teams and teams. The single most important person who contributed to the take down of "Dread Pirate Roberts" was IRS agent Gary Alford who tracked back to the original promotions of Silk Road, and subsequently found a connection from then moniker, Altoid, to Ross.

Calling the Silk Road, "Amazon of drugs" is such a downplaying misinformation. The website sold or allowed to list: drugs, guns, body organs, and poisons among others. It's just all things illegal.

This was a good read and I hope to read more books written by Nick Bilton in the future.


Chris Tarbell, FBI special agent who apprehended Ross, did a podcast with Lex Fridman.

#340 – Chris Tarbell: FBI Agent Who Took Down Silk Road