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Death in Mud Lick: Book summary and reviews of Death in Mud Lick by Eric Eyre

Death in Mud Lick

A Coal Country Fight against the Drug Companies That Delivered the Opioid Epidemic

by Eric Eyre

Death in Mud Lick by Eric Eyre X
Death in Mud Lick by Eric Eyre
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Book Summary

From a Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter from the smallest newspaper ever to win the prize in the investigative reporting category, an urgent, riveting, and heartbreaking investigation into the corporate greed that pumped millions of pain pills into small Appalachian towns, decimating communities.

Death in Mud Lick is the story of a pharmacy in Kermit, West Virginia, that distributed 12 million opioid pain pills in three years to a town with a population of 382 people—and of one woman, desperate for justice, after losing her brother to overdose. Debbie Preece's fight for accountability for her brother's death took her well beyond the Sav-Rite Pharmacy in coal country, ultimately leading to three of the biggest drug wholesalers in the country. She was joined by a crusading lawyer and by local journalist, Eric Eyre, who uncovered a massive opioid pill-dumping scandal that shook the foundation of America's largest drug companies—and won him a Pulitzer Prize.

Part Erin Brockovich, part Spotlight, Death in Mud Lick details the clandestine meetings with whistleblowers; a court fight to unseal filings that the drug distributors tried to keep hidden, a push to secure the DEA pill-shipment data, and the fallout after Eyre's local paper, the Gazette-Mail, the smallest newspaper ever to win a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting, broke the story.

Eyre follows the opioid shipments into individual counties, pharmacies, and homes in West Virginia and explains how thousands of Appalachians got hooked on prescription drugs—resulting in the highest overdose rates in the country. But despite the tragedy, there is also hope as citizens banded together to create positive change—and won. A work of deep reporting and personal conviction, Eric Eyre's intimate portrayal of a national public health crisis illuminates the shocking pattern of corporate greed and its repercussions for the citizens of West Virginia—and the nation—to this day.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"[R]iveting and essential...Packed with colorful details and startling statistics, this page-turning journalistic thriller shines a brilliant spotlight on a national tragedy." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Compellingly told...a tale of compassionate people deeply wronged and a dogged journalist who won't stand for it." - Booklist (starred review)

"Timely and well documented, with appeal to a broad range of readers." - Library Journal (starred review)

"Portions of the narrative feature first-person narration, as the author illuminates how time-consuming, budget-busting investigative journalism functions despite circumstances that mitigate against it...Timely, depressing, engrossing reportage on an issue that can't receive too much attention." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"How did they get away with it for so long — the corrupt drug manufacturers, distributors, pharmacies and physicians who flooded the most vulnerable communities in America with highly addictive pain pills, raking in billions of dollars even as thousands died from overdoses? Read Death in Mud Lick and understand. It is a stunning story, and Eric Eyre tells it with compassion, grit, deep knowledge and the 'sustained outrage' (as he puts it) that is the rocket fuel of great journalism." - Dan Fagin, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Toms River

"Death in Mud Lick is simultaneously a gripping account of the corporate interests who started the opioid epidemic and a vivid illustration of the power of scrappy, relentless, investigative journalism. Eric Eyre is not just a great West Virginian; he's a national treasure." - Keith Humphreys, former White House drug policy adviser to Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama

"Eric Eyre represents the absolute best of newspaper reporting: He's dogged, fair, and as scrappy as the mountains he calls home. His book, Death in Mud Lick, is a riveting, intimate look at the corporate greed, regulatory failure and lobbying shenanigans that led to pill mills complete with "courtesy snacks" and cash registers so full they wouldn't close. In the most opioid-ravaged place in America, Eyre makes you see the opioid crisis anew." - Beth Macy, author of Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America

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Author Information

Eric Eyre

Eric Eyre has been a reporter at the Charleston Gazette-Mail since 1998. In 2017, his investigation into massive shipments of opioids to West Virginia's southern coalfields was awarded a Pulitzer Prize. The author of Death in Mud Lick, he lives in Charleston, West Virginia, with his wife and son.

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