Today, Patrick Radden Keefe comes on the pod to talk about a super-chilling sequence of his New York Times-bestselling book, Say Nothing, a history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Patrick is a staff writer at The New Yorker, and his pieces there, his books, and today's episode brim with fascinating anecdotes and morally complex, maybe even doomed characters. I loved Say Nothingbecause it watches as these romantic ideologues move from fighting for their freedom to inflicting terror, and Patrick and I discuss what it means to root for revolutionaries who over time become monsters.
Today's episode is more than the story of The Troubles, though. Patrick explains what he's seeking as an investigative journalist and author, both in a literal sense—how he researched this book—and in a metaphoric one, like why exactly he's drawn to characters whose humanity shifts with each job they must do. At the heart of the episode are questions that unite us, and perhaps haunt us: What does freedom cost? And is that cost worth it?
The title for Patrick's book comes from a famous Seamus Heaney poem. The book itself arose from this piece, which I loved and Patrick and I discuss on the pod. He profiled El Chapo, the greatest drug lord the world has ever known, in 2014, as well as the mass murderer Amy Bishop. His editor says Patrick, with his law degree, could have made an amazing D.A. He is currently at work on a book on the opioid crisis, which had its start with this piece. For a list of his other books, head here.