Pill City by Kevin Deutsch

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Pill City by Kevin Deutsch

Category: Politics and Society
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sam Tyler
Reviewed by Sam Tyler
Summary: Baltimore delves even deeper into a drug crisis when two young tech minded drug dealers bring supply of narcotics into the 21st Century. This hard hitting true crime book looks at the impact at a local and countrywide level.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: February 2017
Publisher: Pan
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781509843305

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One of the main reasons that I prefer to read fiction over non-fiction is that one can be neat, the other cannot. The problem with real life is that things are not always wrapped up at the end, instead the years continue and more books need to be written. The drug scene in Baltimore is a good example; the fictionalised TV Show The Wire depicted a realistic view of a region in the grip of a crisis. Even this show ended openly with a rather depressing note that things are no better. If you want to find out how bad things have got, then look no further than Pill City by Kevin Deutsch.

Technology has brought with it great opportunities; a world of knowledge at our fingertips. However, it has also led to a world of drugs at our fingertips too. Pill City tells the story of two young men who realise the potential of using encrypted phones to sell drugs and set up a market on the Dark Web. Coupled to this is a riot in Baltimore than gives them the opportunity to ransack tens of pharmacies for quality opiates. Their technological brains, coupled with an influx of powerful and cheap drugs, led to another deadly period on the streets of this city and the US as a whole.

If the purpose of art is to make you feel, Pill City, as a book, works. If its aim is to entertain, perhaps it fails because this is not a fun book. The overpowering emotions that you will have when reading this book are depression, sadness and anger. Deutsch not only details the particular rise and fall of the two young dealers, Brick and Wax, but also explores the failure of America to help the poor black neighbourhoods in the grip of a drug epidemic.

The format splits itself between Brick and Wax and the bigger picture. Having a narrative thread to focus the reader is important as otherwise the book is a data overload. There is a lot of information here about the number of deaths etc. At times Deutsch tries to personalise these by introducing us to a person who later dies. This helps to give the book impact, but does mean that it can be a little depressing. Having read a few true crime books about crime in modern America, it seems to me that Deutsch has struck a good balance between dramatisation and truth. He does imbue those whom he meets with thoughts and feelings that perhaps he cannot truly know, but it is never overplayed and you don't feel that you are being lied too.

Being lied to is an interesting concept in of itself as Pill City has come under some of its own investigation with some claiming that the author has created sources; an allegation that Deutsch robustly rejects. All this does for the book is make you question what you read and that is never a bad thing. At its core, Pill City is not a book about people, but about a broken city. In this, the book achieves its goal and as a reader you feel better informed after reading the book and not patronised or lied to. If you plan to read investigative journalism, it always helps to remember to think for yourself as well.

For an interesting look at crime during America's pulp era check out The Mad Sculptor by Harold Schechter, or try Ghettoside by Jill Leovy for more modern misery.

Buy Pill City by Kevin Deutsch at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Pill City by Kevin Deutsch at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Pill City by Kevin Deutsch at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Pill City by Kevin Deutsch at Amazon.com.


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