Keefe, a New Yorker writer whose previous book Say Nothing told the story of a hushed-up IRA killing in 1970s Belfast, brings to Empire of Pain the same coolly prosecutorial prose style, backed by voluminous research. The families refused to be interviewed and boycotted his final fact-checking efforts, replying through lawyers that his questions were “replete with erroneous assertions built on false premises”... But by talking to more than 200 people who knew generations of Sacklers, he brings to life the obsessive personalities and ferocious energy of some members, exemplified by Arthur’s “life force, his won’t-take-no-for-an-answer tenacity, his vision”. Arthur, who trained as a psychiatrist but went on to own an advertising agency and a medical publisher, innovated and cajoled his way through the worlds of medicine and art.
In Empire of Pain, Patrick Radden Keefe methodically and meticulously chronicles this tale of woe and crisis, indifference and corruption. His Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty lays bare the price exacted by the family’s drive for wealth and social mountaineering...
Keefe is a veteran writer at the New Yorker. His 2019 bestseller, Say Nothing, chillingly examined the convergence of youth, zealotry and destruction in Northern Ireland. He even solved the mystery behind a disappearance.
Like Say Nothing, Empire of Pain is drenched in misery, this time the byproduct of OxyContin, the go-to drug for Purdue. Since 1999, opioid-related deaths have risen more than fivefold. By the numbers, opioids have killed more than 450,000 in the US in two decades.
Keefe combines this wealth of new material with his own extensive reporting — he spoke to more than 200 people (though the Sacklers themselves declined to be interviewed) — to paint a devastating portrait of a family consumed by greed and unwilling to take the slightest responsibility or show the least sympathy for what it wrought... If there’s one difference between El Chapo and the Sacklers, it’s that El Chapo is paying for his crimes with a life sentence in a supermax prison in Colorado while the Sacklers get to hold onto their freedom and most of their money. But with the help of this damning book, there’s one thing they’ll never recover despite their penchant for putting their name on museums: their reputation.