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Doctor Dealer: The Rise and Fall of an…

Doctor Dealer: The Rise and Fall of an All-American Boy and His…

by Mark Bowden

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Mark Bowden is among my favorite authors, and I really enjoyed this book. Bowden tells the story of Larry Lavin, a student-turned-drug dealer-turned dentist-turned fugitive. Bowden portrays Lavin in a fairly unbiased light, showing him as charming to some, annoying to others, greedy, generous, ambitious, and arrogant. The reader sees all sides of Larry Lavin, and we are ultimately left with a complex impression of Lavin. I found myself alternately liking him and finding him annoying.

The story of Lavin's youth and his gradual rise to become a drug kingpin in Philadelphia is detailed and filled with any number of anecdotes about brushes with the law, hard-partying, dental school, and family life. The section on his flight to Virginia Beach, his capture, and his prosecution felt a little bit rushed compared with the level of detail we got before that point, which is one of the reasons I am giving this book four stars instead of five.

The other reason I am giving this book four stars instead of five is because I didn't like the way the author presented some of the anecdotes regarding Lavin's run-ins with the criminal underworld of Philadelphia in the late 70s. He routinely used the word "whores" for prostitutes, and while I think that this was Lavin's term, it seemed that the author picked it up as well. I also felt that he portrayed the few black dealers in the book as dangerous thugs, while the "thug" image was not as readily attributed to two of the white dealers who did use violence or intimidation. (Lavin himself was largely able to stay away from the use of intimidation in his dealings, and he regularly wrote off 'bad debts' rather than use force to collect them.) Part of this portrayal may be due to the fact that Lavin did have violent or aggressive run-ins with those dealers or their associates, whereas the violence committed by the white dealers did not involve Lavin. Nonetheless, I felt as though there was an opportunity to provide some context about race relations in Philadelphia during Lavin's tenure there, and in this area the author fell short. This would have given the reader a better sense of the climate in which Lavin was operating his relatively insulated enterprise. ( )
  slug9000 | Apr 15, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802137571, Paperback)

Doctor Dealer is the story of Larry Lavin, a bright, charismatic young man who rose from his working-class upbringing to win a scholarship to a prestigious boarding school, earn Ivy League college and dental degrees, and buy his family a house in one of Philadelphia's most exclusive suburbs. But behind the facade of his success was a dark secret -- at every step of the way he was building the foundation for a cocaine empire that would grow to generate over $60 million in annual sales. Award-winning journalist Mark Bowden tells the saga of Lavin's rise and fall with the gripping, novelistic narrative style that won him international acclaim as the author of the New York Times best-seller Black Hawk Down. "Immensely readable . . . eye-popping . . . a smoothly crafted, exciting, can't-put-it-down book." -- Louisville New Voice

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:59 -0400)

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