Law and Addiction
Waterside Productions, 2019
Twin brothers Jake and Blake Rutledge are inseparable growing up. Their refrain being ‘I got your back,’ but growing up in lowly Oakley, West Virginia is no easy thing. The small town like thousands of others across the United States is deep in the throes of the opioid epidemic. Oakley is so crippled by opioids it’s now referred to as ‘Zombieland.’ Just before finishing college, Jake gets the news that Blake has died of an opioid overdose. Collecting himself as best he can, Jake finishes his law degree, steels his will, and goes on a crusade to bring down those who caused his brother’s death. Here is where Mike Papantonio’s legal thriller Law and Addiction parts company with readers’ initial expectations.
Jake doesn’t go hunting for individual drug dealers, those are too small of fish. Rather, the erstwhile young attorney puts together a legal team from disparate parts of the state to go after Big Pharma, the corporations who knowingly and blatantly put their profits over the health of the populace. Law and Addiction shines as a superb ‘what if’ thriller–what if the law put people before profit, what if we challenged those faceless and soulless corporate entities that only see us as fodder? In the case of this story, the what if leads us through not just griping courtroom drama and machinations but personal upheavals as well making the novel not just entertaining but socially relevant.
Throughout the novel, Jake works quickly with a resolve and determination that is nothing less than heroic. From the very first, Jake identifies and zeroes in on who or, rather, what the true villain is:
“I’ll have to show how thousands of rust-belt communities–communities like Oakley that experienced loss of jobs and industry–were specifically marketed to and targeted. Corporate predators looked for communities with a high despair index, and the distributors then told the people in those communities, ‘We’ve got just the thing to help.’
Suddenly, doctors began prescribing their new wonder pills like candy. Every year the Big Pharma manufacturers produced more and more opioids, and every year their distributors found creative ways to sell more and more of the product. Sales double, and tripled, and then went up tenfold. It’s all there in their corporate accounting and annual shareholders’ reports. Corporate profits depended on increasing demand, so they did all they could to create that demand.”
However, our protagonist knows very well he can succeed on his own. He surrounds himself with other highly skilled lawyers who seem to just need a touch of Jake’s ‘white knight’ optimism to go all in supporting his lawsuits. At each stage of the legal process Jake is shepherded by a steady handed ally and in the process grows that much more skilled himself, which in a way makes Papantonio’s novel a bit of a classic bildungsroman (a coming-of-age novel). The battle lines are clear, Jake and his team on one side and Big Pharma with its billions of dollars and paid-for politicians on the other. In the course of the legal battle, Jake also faces a personal one as Anna, the girl he has long pined for, circles the edges of the epidemic leading Jake to attempt to save her since he couldn’t have his brother.
This last aspect to the novel is the weakest simply because it is the most sentimental. Yet, it is the most human, the most real face of the opioid epidemic and as Papantonio lets the story unfold we are given an excellent parallel view of legal proceedings and personal drama. The balance is well maintained making the novel more than just a courtroom drama. Papantonio’s prose is swift, and he has a knack for writing dialogue moving the story forward rather than extraneous or overwrought description. One would expect as much since the author is a member of the Trial Lawyers’ Hall of Fame with deep experience not just in the courtroom managing clients and opponents but also in crafting succinct briefs cutting to the heart of issues.
Law and Addiction will not only satisfy readers who devour thrillers but also stand as a testament to how to challenge and rollback the opioid epidemic still facing the nation.
About the Author
Mike Papantonio is a crusader who uses fiction to entertain and inform readers about some of the most pressing issues of our times. In each of his legal thrillers – from Law and Disorder to Law and Vengence, and now LAW AND ADDICTION – he lays bare the conspiracies and white-collar crimes that hurt ordinary Americans. A senior partner at Levin Papantonio, he’s taken on Big Pharma, tobacco companies, and the automobile industry, among others. One of the youngest trial lawyers to have been inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame, Papantonio is also a distinguished media presence as one of the hosts of the syndicated Ring of Fire radio show and as the host of American Lawyer on RT America network. A skilled musician and athlete, Papantonio is based in Pensacola, Florida. www.mikepapantonio.com