American Overdose: The Opioid Tragedy in Three Acts
By Chris McGreal
Guardian Faber, £12.99
In the US, 150 people are killed each day by the opioid epidemic, which has cost the country $1 trillion. Shocking stories abound including one where a mother bathing her baby leaves the hot water running and passes out on pills. The baby is boiled alive. American Overdose outlines the timeline of the opioid epidemic from Kentucky’s first “pill mill” in 1996 to Donald Trump’s declaration of a public health emergency in 2017. Chris McGreal gives a shocking insight into the crisis and the forces that have enabled it to flourish, notably “bad science, corporate greed, and a corrupted medical system”. It is a dark – and infuriating – insight into the true human cost of the opioid epidemic and the consequences of “pain as profit”.
Hotel du Jack
By Dan Brotzel Sandstone Press, £8.99
With some playful titles such as Hotel du Jack and Ella G in a Country Churchyard, there is much humour in this short story collection, especially Effusion of the Divine Feminine, Who Is My Neighbour? and Now and Forever. But there are also skilful and telling insights into the realities anddifficulties of parenting; of sustaining relationships; of being an old-fashioned children’s entertainer in a PC world gone mad; of being a middleaged workshop leader who’s lost his mojo; and of being a harassed-at-work dad trying to cope with his children’s school run, among others. The Angry Sun God is a sad story with a shocking sting in the tail and Lord in Your Mercy a really interesting story of a devout woman who has a sexual relationship with a priest. Some stories don’t work but it’s an impressive debut.
The Captain and the Glory By Dave Eggers
Hamish Hamilton, £9.99
In this allegorical novel, the Glory is a US ship and the captain is the president. It’s a very funny satire on Donald Trump which succeeds because it creates a fully rounded comic world, through which Eggers provides a strangely truthful version of Trump’s psychological make-up. He is a fearful creature who sleeps in terror under his own bed; he listens to the ludicrous fear-mongering of a voice in the pipes (Steve Bannon? His psyche?) and is strangely comforted as the messages chime with his own fears. His tweets are hilariously parodied as messages on a wipe-board, brilliantly capturing the random lunacy and inherent threat. Ship wreck is precisely charted. Dark, funny and inventive, it ends with earnest hope.