tv Patrick Radden Keefe Rogues - True Stories of Grifters Killers Rebels... CSPAN October 14, 2022 10:38am-11:30am EDT
surviving personal letters with lower fraser author of the washingtons and catherine garret research editor at the papers of george washington project at the university university of virginia. at 8 p.m. eastern on lectures in history hillsdale college professor richard campbell talks about american churches and religion during world war i picky shares how american pastors ministers and rabbis spoke about the great war before and after the u.s. entered the conflict. exploring the american story, watch american history tv saturdays on c-span2 and find a full schedule on your program guide our watch online anytime at c-span.org/history. >> weekends on c-span2 are an intellectual feast. every saturday american history tv documents american stories, and on sundays booktv brings you the latest in nonfiction books and authors.
landing for c-span2 come from these television companies and more including charter communications. >> broadband is a forceful empowerment. that's why charlie has invested billions building infrastructure, , upgrading technology, empowering opportunity in committees big and small. charter is connecting us. >> tranfour, along with these television companies supports c-span2 as a public service. >> good evening, everybody and what an audience by the way. and let me tell you, if you haven't been out in public recently to please silence your cell phones and i like my jewel photography recording are prohibited during tonight event and will be a book siding directly above us in the lobby following this talk. okay. welcome to the free library of philadelphia. i name is jason freeman, produce and it are here and other and tonight it is my pleasure to introduce patrick radden keefe
refer to by rolling stone as a master narrative nonfiction, patrick radden keefe is the author of the "new york times" bestseller empire of pain, the secret history of the socko dynasty. critical history of the family responsible for making and marketing painkillers the lid to the opioid crisis it won the 2021 prize and was a national book critics circle nominee. much better. he's also an award-winning staff writer at the new yorker and author three of the books including the national book critics circle award winner say nothing. a true story of murder in memory in northern ireland, the state can an epic tale of the chinatown underworld and the american dream, and chatter, dispatches from the secret world of global eavesdropping. his other honors include a guggenheim fellowship and a national magazine award for
future ready. he wrote and hosted the podcast wind of change come selected as number one podcast of 2020 by the guardian. he joins us tonight with his latest book, "rogues: true stories of grifters, killers, rebels and crooks." writing about such disreputable figures such as wine counterfeiters, illegal arms traffickers and swiss money launderers, united states is a collection of 12 of his new yorker articles about you guessed it, corruption, fraud and power. these stories, he writes in the books prologue, were written over a dozen years and they reflect some of my abiding preoccupation, crime and corruption, secrets and lies, the permeable membrane separating licit and illicit worlds, the fonts of families, the power of denial. the los angeles times review proclaims that it's highly entertaining of course but what
shines through most brightly is keefe's fascination with what makes us human even when we're at our most imperfect. tonight all the would be in conversation with karen heller, national future credit for the "washington post" formally a a true and features calm us here at the inquirer and a finalist for the 2001 pulitzer prize and commentary. so without further ado ladies and gentlemen, join in welcoming patrick radden keefe and karen heller to the free library. [applause] >> welcome. a great turnout. >> yeah. >> pretty wonderful. anyway, so they asked me to introduce after tonight. and i was reminded of what may kill baryshnikov said of fred
astaire when asked to introduce him picky set, and i'm paraphrasing, identified to say something about how writers feel about patrick. it's no secret, we hate him. [laughing] he is just a normally gifted last year and by the thing was our ten best-selling books at the "washington post." we all agreed, and now here he is with just another just a splendid splendid book. i cannot recommend this enough. there are only 60 60 copies upstairs i think. maybe abc better get one. it's a collection of over 12 years, i think, 15 years at the new yorker but 12 years. your dirty dozen, right, of "rogues" and whatever but i'm just fascinated how you pursue this. he's a master of the right around for those of you don't
know it's when the subject will not agree to speak to them. you have the right around the i do want brag but i am simply horrible at this. so i'm in particularly and all. want to read a quote by somebody who said this about patrick. every time he tells me a new story i did i feel like i'm going to have a mini heart attack. oh, geez, another litigious asshole, a murderous criminal? candidate celebrity profile or something? that his wife talking. [laughing] packet is intrigued by all the bad guys. he is absolutely the master of the perfect landing. he gets these quotes, i would be -- you wait for them. he wrote about pursuing the elusive israeli billionaire landed and i mining guild and impoverished republic of guinea
for $160 million to potentially rebellious because what he wrote. the west world has always thought of africa as a as t the texting from within the time is come rubber or slaves. the world bank estimates that 40% of the private wealth in africa is held outside the continent. when you disembark from a plane, the corruption hits you almost as quickly as the heat. that's extraordinary. he pursued -- let's talk about that. this is quite a story. how long, how does this story starts? >> it took a while. i should say first of all thank you so much for doing this and for that wonderful introduction. thank you to all of you for coming out first on free library is great to be a period i love philadelphia. i ran the marathon here in the fall and so that was a slightly painful experience, , exacerbate by the weird thing that philly marathon supporters to which is they keep offering to beer as
your going. i felt like i dying and all these people are thrusting beer at me. but but it's great to be back here and thank you for coming out. so that story was, took about a year, and it started with, i heard that there was this guy been enjoyed never heard of it at the time wealthiest man in the show. he is stored in the diamond trade but he went to guinea in west africa and was after this huge i ordered deposit. whatever was there was a lot of corruption. he came in and as you said for very small amount of money he got the right to this deposit we basically flipped it. the price of some bribes basically he was able to get the rights to deposit and then he turned around and sold half of the deposit to a big brazilian
mining giant for $2.5 billion. there was in your present in guinea who had campaigned on a kind of anticorruption basis and when you he came in he felte are the synchro before country with all the amazing natural resources, this great quote he said to me. he's a high can be so rich and yet so poor? this doesn't compute. he felt part of reason which of these wealthy unscrupulous foreigners who came in and basically exploited these resources in in a way that wd benefit the people. this new president, i simply didn't interview with him and went over to guinea and catching on an interview twice but beny steinmetz was this elusive guy. he's like, he's almost like the villain and a bond movie or something. he's this kind of and
good-looking guy who does it was the and in one place. he has a private jet. he's always jetting from place to place. he works out every day. he's extremely kind of casual. he has this very firm handshake. he never gives interviews. i had to chase them all around. he is corporate offices in london as i went to london because i thought i might go and meet with him there. when i got the basic too late he just left for paris. so went to paris. when i got two pairs they said he just got on his private jet to israel. i had to call and get approval from a editor present i will fly to israel but it want a guarantee that i'll need one up there. i'm not going to get to tel aviv and be told here just flown to africa. they said we can't give you a guarantee. so the news a lot more haggling and eventually i went and met me an south of france when he was staying on his megayacht and
interviewed him for four hours. >> isn't what you wrote, as i entered the lobby i brushed past a slim deeply tanned man wearing a blue linen shirt that was button halfway to his naval. it was beny steinmetz. thank you for making the trip he said when it introduced myself. he sees my hand with a formal grip of some who puts a lot of stock and handshake. i currently you got this guy because, so it was a year? >> yeah. and many countries. that was one of those interviews actually where it was really revealing in the end. it's very often the case writing about billionaires i find that if you do get the interview they have pr people, they got lawyers in a room and it's almost not worth the interview because they are so constrained in what, where the will that you go. but in this case i actually, it ended up, the juice was worth the squeeze.
>> yes here that's a wonderful story. so let's talk about amy bishop which is not as a happy, happy is wrong word, but -- >> happy is never the word. >> with your stories. amy bishop, this is a very sad story, she was a neurobiologist at the university of alabama and she shot six people in one day. she was denied tenure, through them fatally. what are court appointed lawyer said you come again in amazing quote, there are people in our community for walking timebombs. they're so hard to identify. the morning after she was arrested a suburban boston please chief call the sheriff in huntsville, like patrick us that this up, he has, you are in the room when she just goes off and it's frightening.
pop, pop, you know, it's extraordinary want to talk about his affect underwriting. it's very terrifying like in a movie, and then i would never, like three pages in your same so this is like this holy crap moment. his boston chief of police says the woman you have in custody i thought you would want to know she shot her brother back in 1986. women murderers are very rare. that's the detective story that you chose to follow. why don't you tell us that also? >> sure. originally, this is, all credit goes to my editor at the new yorker. he brought this story to me about this mass shooting in 2010 in alabama. and i said i have no desire to write that story. i don't care about and asked shooter. i don't get why they didn't. i don't what their motivations were. you know, pass.
he said no, no, no. here's what's really interesting. so in 2010 she shot these colleagues but what emerged after that now mass shootins that in 1986 when she was 21 21 ship shot and killed her brother with a shotgun, her teenage brother. there was one witness who was your mother. and when the cops came, the mother said i saw the whole thing. it was an accident. and when the editor said to me was, the story isn't any bishop and asked shooter of 2010. the story is a mother in 1986 who only has two kids and she says one kill the other and as a split-second decision when the cops come, what do you tell them? what she says is it was an accident. and maybe i was an accident maybe it wasn't, right, but you can see the motivation that the mother might have because she doesn't want to lose both of them. my editor said was, that's the story and the reason that's the story is because any of us who
are parents would have to think about what we would do in that situation. it doesn't mean we're good people are bad people but it's something that you would have to consider and it's another story i spent almost a year on. throughout the time i was working on it people who knew the family order from the town where it really looked like in the '80s they covered up the sing that have come not just the family of the cops and the people in the community kind of out of compassion for the family. people kept saying to me as i was, do you have kids? unit, that was, that you, but that was kind of a prerequisite for understanding what the moral cactus was in the story. >> the chief of police, in fact, you sort of again in this cinematic way we move away from huntsville very quickly. the story, she was 21, she was 21 i think her brother was 1918.
it happened quite a while ago and she went on to make this life for her but you kind of show that this is -- >> but, i mean, after this happened, leaving aside the fact that she pulled the trigger of the shotgun, imagine if you had a child, a young kid who witnessed the death of a sibling. sibling. she never got any therapy, you know? they didn't move from the house, so she continued, her bedroom was right across the bedroom from her brother had lived. so it clearly, there should invent some kind of intervention back in the '80s to make sure that this person was okay. and what we learned much, much later in 2010 was that she really wasn't. >> when you spin a year on this, just in a year on this story alone or --
>> i should say there's always overlap because it's a lot of what i, the reporting i do is very stop start. there's always documents you're trying to get or people who won't talk to you. and in that case i initially i didn't have amy bishop or her parents. and then slowly, slowly what happened was her parents initially wouldn't talk to me. they have not given any interviews to anybody, but i kept going back to that talking to more and more people who knew them. it's one of the luxuries of writing for the new yorker is i can spend a long time and keep going back that what happens if the person who initially says i'm not going to talk they keep getting phone calls from people they know say i just talked to that reporter guy, here's a questions he asked. eventually they came around and finally i think we're fact checking the piece when i got, i don't know of no, you are unfamiliar the audience is but it's a very distinctive thing where you get a phone call and
it says you are receiving a telephone call from an inmatn the infantry. and so i interviewed her over the course of a couple of phone calls. >> i mean, in a way i don't know if she is a fictional character but she's not someone you know and yet you don't know. what was that like after a year? >> it was strange. it's funny a sometime get questions about the cycle temperance people sometimes say what would you ask them if you could sit down and around with them -- sackler family. the funny thing about the question is a lot of deputy with people is true with the sackler family and amy bishop, you're dealing with people so deep in denial after some like for me to come along and start asking tough questions will not be that fruitful. i would like to think that in such a ninja at journalism that i i would ask the question that totally disarms them and then
they say, i would've gotten away with it, too, you know? but that's not what happened. most of the time what happens is they have a life they told themselves to have a world that have constructed in which they are not the bad guy and that's the world where they live. and so when you come when you start asking questions that are chipping away at that, usually what happens is they kind of double down or whatever, whatever is they've been telling themselves all this year. >> and what about the parents? >> so the parents were a similar situation. it's funny how the situation few times i just published an article in the new yorker a few weeks ago with a very similar scenario in that the article is about a guy who done some pretty terrible things. i interviewed the parents and a few great compassion for parents in the situations because they, because it's like a perfect bind. like you're connected to your
child and your child is awful things at and how you make sf that. i think a lot of the time the interest denial. and so it's really hard because i feel great compassion for these people but also my job as a journalist is not to protect them. my job is to get out the truth or the best version of the truth i can. so in the case of the bishops, what that meant was i spent i visited with him twice, and there were all these things that they would say that just didn't make sense. do you know what i mean? like a second time i saw them was after i talked to amy and she told me about how she had a suicide attempt. i'm talking to these parents, this is decades earlier and i said amy told me about the suicide attempt. they said she didn't have a suicide attempt. there wasn't a suicide attempt. but she did tell me that she
had, they said no, no, no. she was carving pumpkins and she was testing the night to see how short it would be on her wrist. i mean, i don't mean, it's excruciating. because clearly this is a reality that they have constructed together that they can live with. my job is to say no, that doesn't make sense. >> when you read the story you really understand and raise a family dynamic, even in their denial. it's a mystery to me but i feel you actually solved in terms of the family dynamic. anyway, that's, on a lighter -- there are some lighter stories. >> shades of darkness. >> i really did want to bring him up tonight but i'm going to. you profiled mark burnett who is
probably responsible in some ways you argue pretty well but we had donald trump as the president because mark burnett was amassed much of the celebrity apprentice. you don't get to burnett but you get so many wonderful details about him, and the good news is many people on the apprentice wanted to talk to you. and i want to just read this because this is extraordinary to me. i read this when his first published in new york but this is like holy moly. okay, the apprentice was built around a weekly series of business challenges at the end of each episode trump determined which competitors should be fired but is as if i'm trump was unprepared for the sessions. i i know that's a shock. with little grasp of who had performed well, sometimes i just love this a candid distinguish herself in the contest going to get fired on it went by trumpier when this happened the editors were obliged often obliged to
reverse-engineer the episode scouring hundreds of hours of footage to emphasize a few moments when the exemplary candidate might have slipped up an attempt to assemble an artificial version of history which trump's shoot from the hip decision made sense. .. apprentice portrayed trump most importantly he had just gone through i don't know how many bankruptcies but we made him not to be the most important person in the world and here's a quote . it was like making the court jester the king. that's the chef's kiss to me. we walked through the offices and shot she kept furniture, crumbly empires at every turn . our job was to make it seem
like there was so let's talk about this. how did you come to this story and ... class is funny. this was my editor's idea again. there are people at the new yorker who, with their own ideas and there are people whose names i shall not mention who never come up with their own ideas. everything is handed to them by editors and for me it's usually two of mine toone of theirs or three of mine to one of theirs and this was one that was my editor's idea where he just said the thing that's so fascinating is that most people agree , like however people feel about most people feel the apprentice was this significant moment in putting him on the national stage and amplifying his brand for lack of a better word. and then the other thing that
was interesting is when he came into office he really still thought about the sort of optics ofreality tv . so some of you may recall when he announced his candidacy there's a moment where he and melania come down the gold elevator at trump tower inthat sequence, the way it was shot, that happened in the apprentice . it was an outtake on the apprentice and it turns out all the supporters that were there that they were extras, day players who'd been hired to come and cheer the same way you would for a reality tv show and he would say the videographers at the white house would say shoot me like they shot me on the apprentice. it was so interesting the idea that in some ways this guy who we have all come to know and love or hate, he emerged sort of from the ford reality tv and the person who did this is this totally
unlikely just absolute hostler. this guy from east london mark burnett who is a british paratrooper. he was going to go and be a mercenary in south america but his mom when he left the military but his mom had a vision and said she didn't want him to do anything involving guns so on his way to south america he walked out of lax. he had a transfer so he was an illegal immigrant who came to california without a green card, got a job as ananny , as like a male nanny. for wealthy families in southern california. and he was like a paratrooper turned nanny. and then managed to sort of parlay his way. he had a show called eco-challenge and his big
breakthrough was that there was this crazy swedish like early pioneer, like this little known outside of sweden, this swedish show called expedition robinson which is involved like a bunch of swedish people who were dumped on an island and they had to kind of fend for themselves with a bunch of cameras. and burnett saw it and he licensed this buobscure swedish show and saidi want to give it a new title, survivor . and from there he did the apprentice. and he and trump had this kind of strange relationship where he recognized i think the term i used in the piece is if the real charisma that trump had. and they just had this kind of amazing dynamic and burnett ends up in this weird
situation where didn't want to, part of the reason he didn't want to talk to me is he didn't want to be associated with trump but he didn't want to disassociate himself either. yes, his third wife miss roma downey, of touched by an angel. burnett's the kind of person who says of his wifeliterally married an angel . so yes, he was born again. so anyway of fun dive into hollywood but to me there was this deeper theme in the piece which is just at a certain point everything becameentertainment and christopherburnett, there is no such thing . politics is just entertainment by other means . and >> like at the white house correspondents. >> he was of the emmys. he said this is during the campaign what he said was if
he basically called out mark burnett, if mark got elected it would be his fault and he said if they build that hwall were going to throw you over . >> but the truth is burnett one. burnett went on to run mgm mgm tv which is doing today and i think he you know, sort of laughing all the way to the back. >> and another beautiful, isn't it great someone just plugged yourself. magic. anyway, burnett is lean and lanky with a jealous perpetually smiling face of peter pan and i said in the words of one ex-wife have photoshop twinkle and of course what i love in the words of one ex-wife, that's just delicious. >> there are two of them and i talked to them both. >> maybe the other one doesn't agree. anyway, so let's talk about
the thomas jefferson line. this is the first .story in the collection. and in some ways it's sillier. >> it's totally sillier. >> its rich people messing up which i kind of like and it's also stars, features a coke brother, one of the lesser brothers bill. bill. >> he's not the political koch. >> you have been living in a 35,000 square-foot anglo caribbean style house in palm beach and he had to excavate his. >> they were expanding when i visited because 35,000 square feet wasn't enough. >> they were expanding because he had so much crapin the basement including wine . and he liked to buy things.
and he says i bought so much, so many guns, so many other things that if someone's out to cheat me i want to sonofabitch to pay for it he told me, his color rising. also he said and i love these phrases, i'm putting you back . also he said relaxing a bit and breaking into a smile it's a fun detective story re and in two years he hired this incredible retired fbi agent who said it was like working for the fbi but with lots of money. he estimated that that koch had spent $1 million on this case, twice what you paid for althe wine so let's talk about counterfeit wine and the thomas jefferson bottles. how did the star. >> i have a friend who it's funny. i don't know if anybody in the room listens to this podcast i got did call the winds of change but there's a character in the podcast was my friend michael .
who is a longtime friend of mine and the source for, just one of these people that's feedingyou interesting stories and he was the guy that set that podcast of emotion so my friend michael , emailed me and i think it's probably 2006 or seven and said i have a new story for you, counterfeit wine. and i just sort of thought what is counterfeit wine, what does that even mean. when i looked into it it turned out over the last 2030 years there have been a huge inflation in the price of rare wine. and there have also been all these rich people who generally kind of new money rich people who acquired a lot of money fast and they want to have a world-class wine cellar and they want it fast so they'll spend three, four, $5 million on wine over the course of a couple of years and the whole thing is
kind of crazy and part in that their building these sellers that have so much wine that they could never drink all the wine in their lifetimes. this guy bill koch at a certain point i said was the point of buying wine you never consume he just showed me all these antique guns including general custer's rifle and when i asked him why he would buy 2000 bottles of wine when he's six years old and there's no way he's going to drink it all in his life he said i'm never going 'to shoot custer's rifle. but it turns out that as all that was happening there were these really crafty wine fraudsters who realize this was the perfect crime because you can introduce these fake balls which look like you know, they either look like really antique wine or a lot of the time the price of a
wine will vary from vintage to vintage so like an 82 is really expensive and an 83 isn't and so you take and 83 and put it in an 82 and what they had going for them was the collectors of these sellers and they may never even get to the bottle in question because they're buying more than their drinking . and if and whenthey do open the wine , most of these people can't tell the difference. it's like it's totally the emperor's new clothes and i'm sure many of you have had the same experience i've had where you go out for somebody's birthday and you spend more on a bottle of wine at dinner and you're asking yourself is this really any better than the cheaper bottle , the house wine, i don't know . >> and a lot of really old one is not even drinkable you have this marvelous quote again, these international wine department jokes that they said more 1945 was consumed on the 15th anniversary of the vintage in 1995 and was ever produced to begin with. >> and that same woman
sutcliffe said she thinks the vast majority of the wine is happily consumed. there was a guy, and the reason it's this perfect crime, my favorite story in the piece came from a guy who said he's the wine director for a series of super fancy restaurants in vegas and he told me the story about how one night they had had these three bankers from new york in town celebrating a big deal and to celebrate they ordered a bottle of 1982 petrus. very fancy french wine, and 82 is a great year so this had been in the restaurant for $6000 a bottle and the order a bottle and it's fantastic, it's great. they like it so much they decide it's a special night, they'regoing to order another . the second bottle comes out and they make a big show of
decanting it and everything and taste this one and this one tastes weird. they don't know what the issue is but something's wrong. and so they apologetically say we have want to return this, we're sorry. and the wine director the guy i talked to is himself very apologetic and also terribly sorry, will take you out another one but there's hell to pay afterwards because there's a thing wrong with that second bottle . so when the diners have left the third bottle i said say .is great, the guys love it, fantastic, the drink that and they leave and after that afterwards they bring the three bottles in the kitchen and trying to figure out what the problem is with thesecond bottle . it was anyone. >> do you ever get so overwhelmed by a story that you save your editor or your wife who had that beautiful quote about you .
no, it's too much, this is like a great white whale, i'm never going to get. it's going to do me in. >> sometimes. i think i've gotten better over the years at knowing what's the best way of putting this. i'm big on storytelling. i'm ambig on having a kind of clear narrative that runs through something that can be true for an article of the sort that's collected in here. or you know, these are each one of these will take you maybe 45 minutes to read and i love that about them that it's you can really get into init but you're going to be done in a sitting, it's not something that is making you feel bad about yourself . but this is also true with .ooks something like my secular book or the dead book i did on that for that on the troubles there with these big obligated subjects and
sometimes my frustration as a f reader not a writer is that if i'm reading a book i can tell that the material is rich and it's important but i feel like not enough but has been given to how do you tell this is thestory, how you organize this, where you start . it's almost as if the writer sometimes takes your interest for granted . and i feel like you have to fight for it all the time and that involves distillation and organization. so early on i think there were times i would take on the story and lost in the woods, i had all this material. i knew it was great but i couldn't see the path through it. and i honestly i think that when the writer feels that way the reader is going to feel that way too. what gotten better at his seeing, i do it simply. for me it starts off at the back of an envelope.
one of the beats, if i had to tell you this story in five minutes, where does it start, who are the characters, what are the big turns and twists. and i try and just wait it out in a very schematic way. so nowadays i'm doing that from the very beginning so i guess what i'm saying is i never get lost in the woods anymore because there are some woods darkened dense i wouldn't go there . but the places where i get discouraged are more having to do with recording where there's a story i want to tell but i just can't gather enough of the kind of material that i want. so i will tell you what it is , there if there's a devious journalist in here wants to steal it for me but there's an idea my editor brought me a year ago that's amazing and it will be an incredible piece but nobody wants to talk ntand it's sort of in the criminal justice system. the bad guys don't want to
talk, their lawyers don't want to talk, prosecutors don't want to talk, the cops don't want totalk . and so i'm just kind of my hands are tied, there's no way in for me. so that happens. >> but you get out of, briefly just before this is just amazing and this book opens with. you went after this story, this is like murderous machine of a drug lord. the drug lord. and i'm sure your wife was thrilled withthis . and tell your readers what happened after you did the piece and what happened after that. >> with the caveat that i told the story on the late show last night. >> only with seth myers and easier today. >> hopefully none of you will
hear me tell it again. so i wrote this big piece about el chapo guzman and when he was caught in 2014, caught the first time, i wrote this piece called the hunt for el chapo. and went down to mexico and i had a lot of access and i talked to the mexican forces and dea involved in that and i talked to a bunch of people who worked for him and work for the cartel but ididn't talk to el chapo guzman which is sometimes the way it is . and the peace came out. and a few days later i got a voicemail in the office from a guy who said he was a lawyer for the guzman family and this made me a little nervous.
i hadn't thought about him reading the piece or anybody in his circle reading the piece . the problem was a bunch of the newspapers pick up revelations from the piece. it didn't strike me as the new yorker subscriber but actually when i mentioned seth myers last night he said he is but he only reads the cartoons. and so i was very nervous made a few phone calls. i called the guy who works for me in the government and said this attorney for the guzman family and he ran a few checks and said yeah, he really is an attorney, real cartel lawyer but he's one of these cartel lawyers whose like 60 percent cartel and 40 percent lawyer. so i was just getting moreand more nervous. and i didn't tell my wife about this at all . and finally when i called the guy thing i thought he was going to bring up is in the piece i ashad said that i had told the world that when he was on the run one of his big
issues was he always needed to get viagra and that was a whole logistical thing because he was moving from safe house to safe house and it always had to make sure he had plenty of viagra and the mexican source of mindset you know this is the most macho country in the world. you know that he is the most macho man in this country and you're the one who told everybody that he uses wviagra. so i wasalready to have the viagra conversation with the guy . and he had this very kind of starchy formal way of talking and he said he established that i was that i wrote the article andthey said we have read your article . and he said they all referred to him as else in your. r is ready to write his memoirs. and i had gained out in my mind all the ways this was going to go and i was ready
for the viagra thing but i guess i just haven't seen it coming so i was kind of like that's the book i'd love to read. and he said but sir, is it a book you would like to write? so that was this kind of crazy situation where i was offered the opportunity to ghostwrite his memoirs and as you will have gathered by the fact that were talking about this i didn't write his memoirs but i am alive to tell you about it. >> so we're going to take some questions. and if patrick's willing to talk about his marvelous book and his previous book say nothing, don't be shy. any questions? >> my question to start is i read empire of pain and it
seemed at the end you were still under sort of a spotlight from the sackler's and i was concerned about your safety, your family. and flooring up against you, how did that was all? >> good question. they kept up the pressure right up until urthe eve of the book coming tiout. it was like a day or two before publication i was doing an interview for the today show and it was funny because it kept getting interrupted because the producer was getting furious text messages and emails from their legal and pr people . and the book came out and they went totally dark, totally silent. hadn't set a thing and it was last april. haven't sued me. and yeah. part of the story i was trying to tell in the book i
think with the sackler's it's a little bit like honestly a little bit like this harvey weinstein or jeffrey epstein or any of these powerful people who get away with terrible things for a long time when it finally all comes out there's a natural reaction to think a lot of us to say how can they get away with it for so long and i think the answer a lot of the time is that they surround themselves with these people who are these kind of ostensibly respectable service providers. lawyers, pr people, private investigators. and consultants for mckinsey, you name it. and those people i think protect them and insulate them and attach attack the messenger when somebody tells them something so there was a strange sense for me on the sone hand i was it was very unpleasant getting twoyears of legal threats . i can tell you some stories. and there was that episode i talk about in the book where we had somebody sticking out my house.
i should say they never confirmed that was them but it was the only project i was working on at the time. and all that was unpleasant but it was important for me to tell the story because the truth is they've been doing that for 20 years, that stuff and it's one of the reason they got away with it for the law aslong as they did . >> i wonder how you make peopletalk to you, do you pay them ? >> it's a great question, i'm not allowed to pay people. it's interesting because if you were a sociologist you can pay people for interviews and that's not ethically permissible in journalism. there's just no scenario in which you can do that at all. it's a pretty bright line rule. i will say just in the interest of honesty there are
little ways around that . it's very from project to te project but i wrote a book about chinatown in new york city and chinese immigrants and i couldn't pay them for their time but these are people are working incredibly hard jobs meleand so what i wou say is can i buy you a meal? that's permissible. at least can i buy you lunch for by you dinner when you get off work. but no, i'm not allowed to pay people. you know, i try to meet people where they are. and persuade them that i don't really have an agenda. i just want to figure out what the truth is and the truth is often complicated. i write these long articles that kind of embrace complexity, you know what i mean ? even the new ones in my story i want to sort of understand how they see the world. so that's my pitch to people and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.
but the other thing to that point about the right around is that i thinkespecially with powerful people , they use access as the kind of leverage and i think there's way too much access in journalism in general. for me i've noticed sometimes what happens is if it's a hedge fund manager or a reality tv producer or a banker or a pharmaceutical executive and you say hey, i'm going to write about you and they say too bad i'm not going to give you an interview they think you're going to go away they say you say i'm going to write about you anyway. i'll just have to do more work to find people who've known you over the years but i will do it and so that's part of my pitch to people as i say the train is leaving the station, you can get on if you want. i love it if you would but if
you don't, the train is still going to leave the station, is not a thing whereyou have the agency to stop this . >> how early into the empire of the sackler's were you working? >> funny you should say. i said i had stories. they, i hadn't even started writing. i wrote a piece in the new yorker in 2017 which was kind of put the spotlight on the family maybe in a way that hadn't happened up till that point. and they didn't like that. and initially i wasn't going to write a book and then i decided i would write a book and in early 2019 my publisher put out a little announcement in the trades. . it was not written up in the new york times that i was doing this. it would you would need a subscription to some publishing newsletter and we got a 17 page single spaced letter and on some level i was like let me start writing.
but that was the beginning of it. and that never reallylet up until just before the book came out . >> kthis is somebody who knows a thing or two about all this . >> might be about the sackler's. are you as pretentious as your wife says you are? >> for anyone who follows patrick on twitter he is a great follow .te >> thanks and. >> one other question obviously publicly. >> she called him incredibly pretentious. go ahead. >> just want to publicly thank you for what empire of pain has done shining a light ghon the family that's responsible for more deaths in america then any other family that i know of. and the other question is, to questions.