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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.

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