Baillie Gifford prize goes to ‘controlled fury’ of Empire of Pain | Books

Patrick Radin Keefe’s investigation into the Sacklers, the dynasty whose company Purdue Pharma sold the pain reliever OxyContin that fueled the opioid crisis in the United States, won the £50,000 Baillie Gifford Prize.

Keefe, who said he was subject to surveillance and threats of legal action while writing Empire of Pain, has garnered titles including Harald Jähner’s View of Life in Post-WWII Germany and Post-WWII Poet and Novelist Kei Miller’s collection of essays, Things I Have . Withheld to win the prize. The Baillie Gifford Prize is the best British award for non-fiction, won in the past by writers such as Anthony Beevor and Barbara Demick.

“We were completely thrown as a group of judges by Empire of Pain. By its moral rigor, controlled rage, exhaustive research, skillful writing, and the courage it took to write it. Above all, though, by its sheer motive narrative energy,” Chief Justice Andrew Holgate said.

The book delves into the history of the Sackler family, examining how a dynasty previously known for its large charitable donations to arts institutions drew much of its fortune from the company that manufactures and markets OxyContin, a highly addictive pain reliever.

Keefe, a New Yorker writer who previously won an Orwell Award for Say Nothing, had access to thousands of private documents while writing Empire of Pain, giving more than 200 interviews to Tell His Story.

“While I was reporting, there were moments when my eyes would pop out of my head. I was shocked. I kept thinking I couldn’t be more shocked. He then told The Observer earlier this year.”

On Tuesday, he said it was a “great honor” to win this award, adding that “non-fiction is more important than ever” now that “the very idea of ​​truth has been attacked.”

Keefe previously told NPR that the Sacklers team “has put a lot of energy into trying to thwart this project since its inception,” sending legal letters and threatening legal action. “I had a moment last summer where a private investigator was stalking my house. You know, I can’t say for sure that Sackler sent him. But I can tell you that I wasn’t working on any other projects at the time, and that when I asked them, in fact, Asked to comment on whether they were responsible, they declined to comment.

Holgate said the story Keefe extracted in Empire of Pain was of exceptional interest, also praising the “skill with which he told his incredible tale, and how he made it so immersive and unquestionable”.

Joining the jury were novelist Sarah Collins, physicist and writer Dr Helen Chersky, historians Kathryn Hughes and Dominic Sandbrook, and author and broadcaster Johnny Bates.

Craig Brown won an award last year for his Beatles autobiography, One, Two, Three, Four.

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