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Patrick Radden Keefe

New Yorker staff writer and author of the New York Times bestseller Say Nothing

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  • About Patrick Radden Keefe

    Patrick Radden Keefe is the author of the New York Times bestseller Say Nothing and an award-winning staff writer at The New Yorker. In his talks, he discusses the subjects of his fascinating stories, from the bitter legacy of The Troubles in 20th century Northern Ireland to the corrupt ringleaders of white-collar crime in America today.

    Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland is a bestselling investigation into one of the most notorious mysteries of the vicious political conflict known as The Troubles: the disappearance of Jean McConville, a thirty-eight-year-old mother of ten. Keefe’s mesmerizing book uses the McConville case as a starting point for the tale of a society wracked by a violent guerrilla war, the consequences of which continue to affect Ireland and its neighbors today. Say Nothing won the 2019 Orwell Prize for Political Writing, and an FX mini-series based on the book is currently under development by the producers of American Crime Story and Pose. It has also been longlisted for the National Book Award for Nonfiction. Keefe is also the author of The Snakehead, an extraordinary story of an unlikely crime lord—a middle-aged grandmother named Sister Ping—who ran an underground empire in New York City’s Chinatown, and Chatter, a chronicle of contemporary surveillance and the secret world of global eavesdropping.

    In addition to The New Yorker, Keefe’s work has appeared in The New York Review of BooksThe New York Times MagazineSlate, and numerous other publications, and he is a frequent commentator on NPR, the BBC, and MSNBC. He received the National Magazine Award for Feature Writing in 2014 for his profile of mass shooter Amy Bishop, and was a finalist for the National Magazine Award for Reporting in 2015 and 2016. He is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the New America Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. Keefe grew up in Dorchester, Massachusetts, and attended Columbia University before earning master’s degrees from Cambridge University and the London School of Economics, as well as a J.D. from Yale Law School. He currently lives in New York, where he is a fellow at the New York Institute for the Humanities.

  • Speaking Topics

    Business Ethics in the Era of Corporate Impunity

    Drawing on his extensive reporting on white collar crime and corruption for The New Yorker, where he has covered insider trading, the Sackler family’s role in the opioid crisis, how bank secrecy facilitates tax evasion, the business model of multinational drug cartels, and other issues, Patrick Radden Keefe discusses the ways in which investigative journalism can expose corporate malfeasance, the successes and failures of law enforcement in holding white collar criminals to account, and the importance of ethical leadership and institutional culture in an environment of diminishing accountability. Keefe’s reporting on conflicts of interests associated with the billionaire investor Carl Icahn’s role as deregulation czar to the Trump administration led directly to Icahn’s ouster in August 2017. After another piece exposed allegations of bribery in a multi-billion dollar mining scheme by the Israeli diamond magnate Beny Steinmetz, Swiss authorities brought corruption charges against Steinmetz. Following a pair of major stories about how the drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman operated his Sinaloa cartel like a multinational corporation, associates of the kingpin approached Keefe about ghost writing Guzman’s memoirs (he declined). Keefe discusses the surprising affinities between licit corporations and illicit criminal organizations, and recounts some of his most interesting adventures in reporting on the two.

    Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland

    One night in 1972, a widowed mother of ten named Jean McConville was dragged from her home in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by a gang of masked intruders, and never seen again. In Say Nothing, Patrick Radden Keefe uses the mystery of McConville’s disappearance to tell a broader story about the history of The Troubles in Northern Ireland. Weaving together the intimate stories of both the victims and the perpetrators in one infamous murder, Keefe explores profound questions about the nature of political violence, how young people become radicalized in service of a cause, and how trauma and irresolution can linger, long after a conflict has ended. With Brexit looming—and the problem of the Irish border and the legacy of the Troubles posing the most confounding challenge to the implementation of the UK’s exit from the EU—Say Nothing makes an eloquent argument about the way in which the past is never really the past, and how history can bedevil the present. Keefe can also tell the extraordinary story of how, after four years of investigation, he managed to solve the puzzle of Jean McConville’s death, and to identify—and publicly name for the first time—her killer.

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  • Praise for Patrick Radden Keefe

    Praise for Say Nothing

    Say Nothing has lots of the qualities of good fiction. . . Keefe is a terrific storyteller. . .He brings his characters to real life. The book is cleverly structured. We follow people–victim, perpetrator, back to victim–leave them, forget about them, rejoin them decades later. It can be read as a detective story. . .What Keefe captures best, though, is the tragedy, the damage and waste, and the idea of moral injury. . .Say Nothing is an excellent account of the Troubles.

    RODDY DOYLE, The New York Times Book Review

    An exceptional new book. . .explores this brittle landscape [of Northern Ireland] to devastating effect. . .Fierce reporting. . . It is a dizzying panorama, yet Mr. Keefe presents it with clarity.

    MICHAEL O’DONNELL, The Wall Street Journal

    Say Nothing investigates the mystery of a missing mother and reveals a still-raw violent past. . .The book often reads like a novel, but as anyone familiar with his work for The New Yorker can attest, Keefe is an obsessive reporter and researcher, a master of narrative nonfiction. . .An incredible story.

    Rolling Stone

    Haunting. . .As a cautionary tale, Say Nothing speaks volumes — about the zealotry of youth, the long-term consequences of violence and the politics of forgetting.

    DEVLIN BARRETT, The Washington Post

    As the narrator of a whodunit. . .[Keefe] excels, exposing the past, layer by layer, like the slow peel of a rotten onion, as he works to answer a question that the British government, the Northern Irish police and the McConville family has been seeking the answer to for nearly 50 years. . .Say Nothing is a reminder of Northern Ireland’s ongoing trauma. And with Brexit looming, it’s a timely warning that it doesn’t take much to open old wounds in Ireland, and make them fresh once more.

    PADDY HIRSH, NPR

    The year’s most gripping nonfiction title.

    Entertainment Weekly

    Meticulously reported, exquisitely written, and grippingly told, Say Nothing is a work of revelation. Keefe not only peels back, layer by layer, the truth behind one of the most important and mysterious crimes of a terrible conflict; he also excavates the history of the Troubles, and illuminates its repercussions to this day.

    DAVID GRANN, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Killers of the Flower Moon

    Patrick Radden Keefe’s gripping account of the Troubles is equal parts true-crime, history, and tragedy. Keefe’s incisive reporting reveals the hidden costs of the Troubles, illuminating both the terrible toll of the conflict, and how it continues to reverberate today. A must read.

    GILLIAN FLYNN, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Gone Girl

    Patrick Radden Keefe uses the old Irish phrase, ‘Whatever you say, say nothing,’ to suggest and to say just about everything.  Keefe’s great accomplishment is to capture the tragedy of the Troubles on a human scale.  By tracing the intersecting lives of a handful of unforgettable characters, he has created a deeply honest and intimate portrait of a society still haunted by its own violent past. Say Nothing is a bracing, empathetic, heartrending work of storytelling.

    COLUM McCANN, New York Times bestselling author of Transatlantic and Let the Great World Spin, Winner of the National Book Award

    Patrick Radden Keefe has the rare ability to convey an intimate story that powerfully illuminates a much larger one.  Combining the skills of an investigative journalist with the storytelling power of a suspense novelist, Keefe brilliantly represents the menace and intrigue that devastated Belfast during The Troubles, and shows the course of ordinary lives headed toward inevitable and awful collision. By turns gripping and profoundly revelatory, Say Nothing shines a brighter light on Northern Ireland’s tragic past than any history book.

    SCOTT ANDERSON, New York Times bestselling author of Lawrence in Arabia

    A shattering, intimate study of how young men and women consumed by radical political violence are transformed by the history they make, and struggle to come to terms with the blood they have shed, Say Nothing is a powerful reckoning. Keefe has written an essential book.

    PHILIP GOUREVITCH, author of National Book Critics Circle Award winner We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families and The Ballad of Abu Ghraib

    Smart, searching, and utterly absorbing, Say Nothing sweeps us into the heart of one of the modern world’s bitterest conflicts and, with unusual compassion, walks us back out again along the road to reconciliation. This is more than a powerful, superbly reported work of journalism. It is contemporary history at its finest.

    MAYA JASANOFF, author of the National Book Critics Circle Award-winning Liberty’s Exiles and The Dawn Watch

    Say Nothing is a piercing inquiry into the nature of political violence and its aftermath, by one of the best reporters in the United States. In this beautifully written book, Patrick Radden Keefe delves into the heart of the IRA, chronicling the worst years of the Troubles and the ghosts that continue to haunt Belfast even now that the fighting is over. Faulkner had it right: ‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’

    PETER BERGEN, author of Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden From 9/11 to Abbottabad

    [Keefe] incorporates a real-life whodunit into a moving, accessible account of the violence that has afflicted Northern Ireland… Tinged with immense sadness, this work never loses sight of the humanity of even those who committed horrible acts in support of what they believed in.

    Publishers Weekly, *starred review*

    A searing reflection on the Troubles and their aftermath… Masterly.

    The Economist

    Praise for The Snakehead

    Reads like a mashup of The Godfather and Chinatown, complete with gun battles, a ruthless kingpin and a mountain of cash. Except that it’s all true.

    Time

    Essential reading. . . . A rich, beautifully told story, so suspenseful and with so many unexpected twists that in places it reads like a John le Carré novel.

    The Washington Post

    A masterwork. . . . In this single tale about a global criminal, Keefe finds a story of quintessentially American hope.

    Christian Science Monitor

    Painstakingly reported and vividly told. . . . As immigration reform languishes in Washington . . . everyone involved—from policymakers to activists to the undocumented—would be wise to read The Snakehead.

    Newsweek

    A formidably well-researched book that is as much a paean to its author’s industriousness as it is a chronicle of crime.

    Janet Maslin, The New York Times

    Keefe has written a vivid non fiction thriller. The Snakehead reads like a Chinese-American version of The Sopranos, except that the mob boss is a grandmother who runs a human smuggling enterprise, and the story is true.

    Jane Mayer, author of The Dark Side

    Evocatively captures our yin and yang over immigration policy. . . . This is one of the freshest accounts of modern-day migration I’ve read, one filled with moral ambiguity, one that doesn’t pretend to have the answers, one that in these times feels like essential reading.

    Alex Kotlowitz, The Washington Post

    An eye-opener. . . . Compelling and informative. . . . Keefe maintains a commendable fairness and objectivity reporting a fascinating story.

    USA Today

    Bracing, vivid. . . . Keefe writes gracefully, perceptively, insightfully. . . . Without sacrificing one iota of narrative momentum, he untangles a dauntingly complicated human-trafficking operation so a reader can effortlessly follow along.

    The New York Times Book Review (Editor’s Choice)

    Brilliant. . . . Keefe’s mastery of this chapter of our ongoing immigration saga is impressive. He muses thoughtfully about its many conundrums and highlights how our ethos of welcoming the persecuted gets soured by bad policy and the pervasive exploitation of the helpless. There will be more chapters, no doubt, but this one was pretty riveting.

    Los Angeles Times

    The Snakehead achieves what only the finest reporting can: it peels back an astonishing hidden world. Keefe takes the reader on a spellbinding journey . . . that will forever change your understanding of what it means to become an American.

    David Grann, author of The Lost City of Z

    Timely and compelling.

    Wall Street Journal

    Engrossing. . . . Keefe’s narrative delves deeply into Chinatown and the labyrinthine smuggling routes between China and America, but it’s also a glimpse into our conflicted feelings about illegals and the morass of America’s immigration policy.

    New York Magazine

    Epic. . . . Impressive. . . . A true-life thriller that examines just about every aspect of U.S. immigration policy.

    The Associated Press

    National Public Radio

    Riveting. . . . Keefe deftly interweaves the political, legal and gunslinging strands of Sister Ping’s story, rendering scenes of White House policy deliberation and immigration court procedure as engagingly as scenes of Chinatown shootouts and high-seas rendezvous.

    Exceptional. . . . [Told] with a masterful fluidity. . . . An adventure story, crime drama, political thriller and a contemplative look into immigration policy all at once.

    The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

    Captivating. . . . A page-turner that reads like a crime novel. Peopled with dozens of colorful characters, it offers an authoritative history of the diaspora of the Chinese and their experience in the United States. . . . Keefe’s account reminds us how much hope the American dream inspires and what a steep price some have paid to try to live it.

    ­San Jose Mercury News

    Brilliant. . . . Keefe’s account maintains the swift pace of a thriller. With the immigration debate still boiling, this exploration of how far people will go to achieve the American dream is a must-read.

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)
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