A passionate, well-informed insider’s account of one of the most controversial bankruptcies in U.S. history.

UNSETTLED

HOW THE PURDUE PHARMA BANKRUPTCY FAILED THE VICTIMS OF THE AMERICAN OVERDOSE CRISIS

An opioid-victims’ advocate vents his fury about the Purdue Pharma bankruptcy that allowed the Sackler family to avoid prison and keep most of their fortune.

Several years into his recovery from opioid addiction, Hampton had a modest knowledge of the law when the Department of Justice appointed him to the official Unsecured Creditors Committee in the Purdue bankruptcy case. He soon became co-chair of the nine-member group, which included four private citizens as well as institutional heavyweights like CVS Pharmacy and which had a fiduciary duty to thousands of claimants against Purdue. The author combines the sarcasm of an early Bill Bryson travelogue with the disbelief of Alice in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in this breezy but informative memoir of his falling down a rabbit hole of negotiation, mediation, and Zoom calls as he pushed for a fair shake for victims. Many of his frustrations involved the Sacklers’ army of nuclear-strength law firms like Jones Day, “the firm that had previously represented such stand-up characters as the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and the bin Laden family.” Other maddening setbacks involved cash grabs by states that hadn’t spent much of the federal money they’d already received to fight the opioid crisis, power plays that deprived victims of urgently needed financial help. Hampton finds it small comfort that Purdue ultimately pleaded guilty to multiple felonies and agreed to pay about $750 million to victims, or up to $48,000 per death from a Purdue product. “This wasn’t a bankruptcy,” writes the author, “it was a heist.” Hampton recaps some of the background on the opioid crisis found in stellar books such as Chris McGreal’s American Overdose and Patrick Radden Keefe’s Empire of Pain, but he offers a unique firsthand perspective on a bankruptcy he credibly portrays as yet another injustice to Purdue’s victims.

A passionate, well-informed insider’s account of one of the most controversial bankruptcies in U.S. history.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-27316-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Sept. 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

HUMANS

The creator of the hit internet series Humans of New York takes it global, chasing down a panoply of interesting stories.

In 1955, Edward Steichen staged a show called “The Family of Man,” a gathering of photographs that emphasized the commonality of humankind. Stanton’s project seemingly has much the same ambition. “You’ve created this magic little corner of the Web where people feel safe sharing their stories—without being ridiculed, or bullied, or judged,” he writes. “These stories are only honestly shared because they have a long history of being warmly received.” The ask is the hard part: approaching a total stranger and asking him or her to tell their stories. And what stories they are. A young Frenchwoman, tearful, recounts being able to see things from the spirit world that no one else can see. “And it’s been a very lonely existence since then,” she says. A sensible teenager in St. Petersburg, Russia, relates that her friends are trying to be grown-up, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, whereas she wants to remain a child close to her parents: “I’d like these times to last as long as possible.” A few stories are obnoxious, as with a Dutch incel who has converted himself into a pickup artist and outright cad: “Of course it’s manipulation, but why should I care? I’ve been manipulated so many times in my life.” A great many stories, some going for several pages but most taking up just a paragraph or two, are regretful, speaking to dashed dreams and roads not taken. A surprising number recount mental illness, depression, and addiction; “I’d give anything to have a tribe,” says a beleaguered mother in Barcelona. Some are hopeful, though, such as that of an Iranian woman: “I’ve fallen in love with literature. I try to read for one or two hours every day. I only have one life to live. But in books I can live one thousand lives.”

A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11429-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

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PERIL

An account of the last gasps of the Trump administration, completing a trilogy begun with Fear (2018) and Rage (2020).

One of Woodward and fellow Washington Post reporter Costa’s most memorable revelations comes right away: Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calling his counterpart in Beijing to assure him that even after Jan. 6 and what Milley saw as an unmistakable attempt at a coup d’état, he would keep Trump from picking a war with China. This depiction has earned much attention on the talking-heads news channels, but more significant is its follow-up: Milley did so because he was concerned that Trump “might still be looking for what Milley called a ‘Reichstag moment.’ ” Milley emerges as a stalwart protector of the Constitution who constantly courted Trump’s ire and yet somehow survived without being fired. No less concerned about Trump’s erratic behavior was Paul Ryan, the former Speaker of the House, who studied the psychiatric literature for a big takeaway: “Do not humiliate Trump in public. Humiliating a narcissist risked real danger, a frantic lashing out if he felt threatened or criticized.” Losing the 2020 election was one such humiliation, and Woodward and Costa closely track the trajectory of Trump’s reaction, from depression to howling rage to the stubborn belief that the election was rigged. There are a few other modest revelations in the book, including the fact that Trump loyalist William Barr warned him that the electorate didn’t like him. “They just think you’re a fucking asshole,” Barr told his boss. That was true enough, and the civil war that the authors recount among various offices in the White House and government reveals that Trump’s people were only ever tentatively his. All the same, the authors note, having drawn on scores of “deep background” interviews, Trump still has his base, still intends vengeance by way of a comeback, and still constitutes the peril of their title.

A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982182-91-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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