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19Jun

Rogues by Patrick Radden Keefe review – a preternaturally attentive reporter at work

In this ‘greatest hits’ collection, the author of the acclaimed Empire of Pain stops at nothing in pursuit of the truth

Patrick Radden Keefe is among the hallowed practitioners of American long-form journalism. Every year or so at the New Yorker, he comes up with the eminently bingeable, religiously fact-checked and seductively globetrotting piece of narrative reportage that has become practically its own genre in the past two decades. In the preface to Rogues, a collection of his greatest hits since 2007, Keefe writes that despite the internet’s overall bleak effect on the circulation of print media, it also enabled his career on a century-old magazine: “A big magazine feature used to be as evanescent as the cherry blossoms: here today, gone next week. Now it’s just a click away, forever.”

Charles Dickens may have been the most-read novelist of his time, but the monthly instalments of A Tale of Two Cities weren’t available to as many people mere seconds after publication, as, say, the latest viral article by Ronan Farrow. What explains the compulsive popularity of these 10,000-word “true stories”? I suspect that their appeal has something to do again with the preponderance of screens, which seem empirically suited to a more contemporaneous immersion. If the majority of your daily reading is on a device, chances are you don’t read much poetry or historical fiction.

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