A an ambitious young journalist is about to be exposed as a fraud. Suddenly he is presented with a stranger-than-fiction story: an accused murderer demands to speak with only him. Stranger still, this accused murderer has been on the lam in Mexico, using the journalist's identity.
How these two came together makes for a bizzare true crime story. Michael Finkel, the above-mentioned writer, has just published a book on the topic, True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa.
Finkel, a journalist with The New York Times Magazine, had been fired for passing off a story as true when it was a mixture of fact and fiction. This happened in early 2002. Just as news of this scandal was breaking, Finkel was contacted by an Oregon reporter:
On the other end of the line was a reporter from the Portland Oregonian. Finkel took a deep breath and readied himself for an inquisition on gimcrack journalism. But the reporter wasn't calling about the cocoa cock-up. He was calling about Chris Longo, a guy who had just been accused of murdering his wife and three children and going on the lam in Mexico under a phoney name - Michael Finkel. Most people would have felt at least momentarily wrong-footed by such news, but Finkel, still an instinctive reporter, had only one question to ask: how could he get in touch with the accused?