Patrick Radden Keefe
Rogues is a selection of Radden Keefe’s most celebrated articles published in The New Yorker.
Patrick Radden Keefe has garnered prizes ranging from the National Magazine Award to the Orwell Prize to the National Book Critics Circle Award for his meticulously-reported, hypnotically-engaging work on the many ways people behave badly. Rogues brings together a dozen of his most celebrated articles from The New Yorker. As Keefe says in his preface “They reflect on some of my abiding preoccupations: crime and corruption, secrets and lies, the permeable membrane separating licit and illicit worlds, the bonds of family, the power of denial.”
Keefe brilliantly explores the intricacies of forging $150,000 vintage wines, examines whether a whistleblower who dared to expose money laundering at a Swiss bank is a hero or a fabulist, spends time in Vietnam with Anthony Bourdain, chronicles the quest to bring down a cheerful international black market arms merchant, and profiles a passionate death penalty attorney who represents the “worst of the worst,” among other bravura works of literary journalism.
The appearance of his byline in The New Yorker is always an event, and collected here for the first time readers can see his work forms an always enthralling but deeply human portrait of criminals and rascals, as well as those who stand up against them.
While I have both Patrick Radden Keefe’s previous two books – Say Nothing and Empire of Pain, I have yet to read either. I keep meaning to but have not gotten to them yet. I know he is a highly acclaimed journalist and author, so I jumped at the chance to request a galley of Rogues.
Rogues is a selection of Radden Keefe’s most celebrated articles published in The New Yorker. All stories included in this book are about people – grifters, killers, rebels, and crooks. I presume that the articles contained in this book can all be found in their entirety on The New Yorker’s website, minus the two to three sentence update at the end of each story/chapter. My question is, if you have a New Yorker subscription, can you basically read this book without buying it? Someone please confirm.
Although I have read my fair share of longform journalism, it is not a medium I frequently consume. For me, each story within Rogues screamed that they were pieces of journalism – dry and lacking description. Keep in mind that the intended audience of this book is essentially The New Yorker subscribers and make obvious deductions from there. This translated to each story taking an obnoxious amount of time to read/dredge through. I can typically read a book of this length in half the time it took me to read Rogues.
I found that the purposes of the stories were largely lost. Was each chapter supposed to simply be a portrait of an individual? They did not seem to say anything specific about the world or have a clear conclusion. I acknowledge that not everyone needs there to be a reason behind narrative nonfiction, but I finished feeling that Rogues really was rutterless. Did I learn something? Sure but I did I take anything away other than some likely useless information? No.
My favorite chapter/story was “Winning” that discussed how television producer Mark Burnett (Survivor, The Apprentice, etc.) resurrected Donald Trump as an icon. My conclusion: fuck you, Mark Burnett; media is inherently political. If you’re interested, I am happy to recommend others.
I do not want to review to seem like I hated Rogues, because I did not. I enjoyed many of the chapters, as I am apt enjoy learning new things. I simply felt like that spark that makes a good book a great one was missing. And I never felt emotionally invested in any of the stories. In addition, the contents were largely uneven in compellingness.
Overall, I enjoyed Rogues but would recommend some chapters over others. The verdict is still out on if it is worth buying when you can possibly access all of its contents, minus the prologue online.
Rogues: True Stories of Grifters, Killers, Rebels, and Crooks
Nonfiction – Journalism;
June 28, 2022
Note: I received a e-galley of the book from the publisher, Doubleday Books. Regardless, I always provide a fair and honest review.