A definitive, damning, urgent tale of overweening avarice at tremendous cost to society.



Richly researched account of the Sackler pharmaceutical dynasty, agents of the opioid-addiction epidemic that plagues us today.

In his latest excellent book, Keefe opens in a conference room packed with lawyers, all there to depose “a woman in her early seventies, a medical doctor, though she had never actually practiced medicine.” Kathe Sackler, thanks to the invention of a drug called OxyContin, was a member of one of the wealthiest families in the world, holding some $14 billion. The founder of that dynasty had established numerous patterns that held for generations. Though he had insisted that family philanthropy be prominently credited “through elaborate ‘naming rights’ contracts,” the family name would not extend to their pharmaceutical company, Purdue Pharma. The family would also not accept responsibility for any untoward effects that its products might have. Thus, when asked whether she acknowledged that hundreds of thousands of Americans had become addicted to OxyContin, Kathe answered, “I don’t know the answer to that.” Keefe turns up plenty of answers, including the details of how the Sacklers—the first generation of three brothers, followed by their children and grandchildren—marketed their goods, beginning with “ethical drugs” (as distinct from illegal ones) to treat mental illness, Librium and then Valium, which were effectively the same thing but were advertised as treating different maladies: “If Librium was the cure for ‘anxiety,’ Valium should be prescribed for ‘psychic tension.’ ” By Keefe’s reckoning, by the mid-1970s, Valium was being prescribed 60 million times per year, resulting in fantastic profits for Purdue. OxyContin followed in 1996—and then the opioid crisis, responsibility for which has been heavily litigated and for which the Sacklers finally filed bankruptcy even though they “remained one of the wealthiest families in the United States.” Of particular interest is the book-closing account of the Sacklers’ legal efforts to intimidate the author as he tried to make his way through the “fog of collective denial” that shrouded them.

A definitive, damning, urgent tale of overweening avarice at tremendous cost to society.

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54568-6

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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