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Doctor Dealer: The Rise and Fall of an All-American Boy and His Multimillion-Dollar Cocaine Empire Paperback – November 30, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press (November 30, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802137571
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802137579
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #85,511 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A most unlikely drug kingpin, Dr. Larry Lavin was a Philadelphia dentist at the time of his arrest and subsequent sentencing to a 42-year prison term. But Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Bowden has done an exceptional job of showing how family background and the yuppie culture of the '70s and '80s combined to produce one of the East Coast's biggest cocaine dealers. The son of a man who had once been well-to-do but continued to try to maintain an upper-class lifestyle on a lower-middle-class income, Lavin was a brilliant scholarship student at Phillips Exeter, but was expelled for drug use. Accepted to the University of Pennsylvania, he became the biggest marijuana dealer on campus, at a time when more than half the students, Bowden estimates, were using pot. Then came cocaine and profits ranging into the millions, with an organization that involved dozens of people. Eventually, however, Lavin's flamboyant spending led authorities to suspect him. A notable, in-depth look at a figure who, even after his apprehension, was able to rationalize his criminality on the grounds that he was only supplying a demand.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Mark Bowden is the bestselling author of Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War, as well as The Best Game Ever, Bringing the Heat, Killing Pablo, and Guests of the Ayatollah. He reported at The Philadelphia Inquirer for twenty years and now writes for Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, and other magazines. He lives in Oxford, Pennsylvania.

Customer Reviews

The book is well written.
Justin W. Thole
Buy this book and read it once and then you'll read it a second time and find it just as interesting.
Devin Karcy
Mark Bowden writes in a very detailed style which makes the book slow to read at first.
R. Spell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By R. Spell VINE VOICE on January 27, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was written in the 1980s about a college student who grows from a small-time pot peddler to a major cocaine dealer. I have one major complaint with this book. Mark Bowden writes in a very detailed style which makes the book slow to read at first. I had the same problem reading Black Hawk Down by Bowden but eventually came to realize that was one of the best stories I've ever read. This one is a very good story also and I eventually couldn't put it down as it read quickly in the last half.
Bowden does very detailed research and this book is no exception. Bowden chronicles all of the characters that help Larry in building his empire. And, more importantly, he tries very hard to get inside Larry's mind to show what made him tick. And that's what makes the story so interesting as Larry had many fine qualities. He clearly would have been sucessful in any field but watching him walk through the minefield of a dealer is really interesting. Through this journey he is ripped off at gunpoint with his wife, ripped off by his workers and ripped off by a financial advisor who sees Larry as the answer to his problems. Other highlights include the lives of his workers, some of who are very eccentric and develop very bad coke habits to the point of humor.
I strongly recommend this book if you like fully researched real-life dramas about life on the edge. While this book was written about 15 years ago, Bowden does a great update in 2001 to revisit Larry and see how his life is turning out in prison.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By C Leonard on July 26, 2004
Format: Paperback
This was my first book by Mr. Bowden and I must say I was impressed. The book was very informative and the story never got slow. I was constantly wondering what was Larry going to do next? Larry Lavin was a college kid with nothing to lose and turned into a Kingpin with everything to lose. Book explains the trials and tribulations of Larry and his organization and the addicting effects of cocaine and money. A must read. If you liked the movie Blow, this book reads just like the movie plays out. A+
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83 of 101 people found the following review helpful By K. Brown on February 6, 2004
Format: Paperback
If you have never read a book my Mark Bowden, start right now. This guy is to current events what Ken Burns is to documentaries; he can take any subject, dig into it, and narrate in a compelling way that few people can.
I highly recommend reading "Dr Dealer" and then follow it up with "Killing Pablo." Originally written in 1987 (this edition has a 2001 epilogue), Bowden follows an unlikely cocaine dealer in Larry Lavin, a preppy dental student who loves the maverick thrill of coke dealing, yet also enjoys the high-scale suburban American lifestyle. This book emphasizes Lavin's naive rationale that while cocaine is illegal, it is a high society party drug that was accepted by a wide variety of socialites (remember when it was called the "Champagne of Drugs?"), and figured that he wasn't hurting anybody by supplying it to people who sought it out. And that seems to be the consensus of his fellow upscale dealers and clients, up until their arrests. "Who are we hurting" seems to be the dealers' key question.
Which is why "Killing Pablo" is a great companion piece to "Doctor Dealer." The story of the hunt for Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar paints a polar opposite portrayal of the cocaine trade. There are no preppy dentists, no white-collar style arrests; you see a multitude of Colombian citizens, from police to politicians to everyday folks from every walk of life, murdered by Colombian drug cartels. It is a brutal answer to the "Who are we hurting?" question, and Bowden does that very well.
Larry Lavin is a fascinating character, but not to the point that you feel sympathy for him. The more he succeeds in the illegal drug trade, the more arrogant he becomes, and the more risks he takes.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By D. B. Gray on May 20, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When we moved into Larry's Virginia Beach Neighborhood we wondered how could a man who piddles in his garage all day could afford to live in such a nice house. Well a couple months later the house was wrapped in crime scene tape and we found out how he could afford to handout full sized Snicker bars on Halloween!
Mark described him accurately during his Va Beach days. He was a good-guy and even helped my friend Kevin and I unhinge the jaws of a snapper turtle, which was trying to eat another turtle we had caught in the marshes.
Bowden scores again, with readable interesting non-fiction
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Best Of All on September 23, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Larry Lavin seemingly had it all in the 9-to-5 world; an Ivy League education that led to a growing dental practice, a wife and children living in a tony neighborhood of old money and a business savvy that couldn't be learned in graduate school.

But Lavin had a second career that powered his life. What started as dealing marijuana on his college campus ended up as one of the biggest cocaine rings on the East Coast that - at its pinnacle - was generating $60 million in annual sales.

Mark Bowden leads the reader through every stage of Lavin's life, which came crashing down when law-enforcement officials began to piece together his multi-layered cocaine business. As the dealing branched out, Lavin attempted to launder drug money through legitimate businesses. It leads to Lavin trusting an investor who is running his own set of illegal games, and ultimately helps destroy the drug empire.

Lavin is certainly not alone in the enterprise and Bowden does an excellent job in bringing each of the individuals to life. You get the feeling as if you are there, privy to insider's information while running fast and hard.

But there are questions that the reader is left to answer. Right and wrong may not necessarily be so obvious.

Law enforcement officials attempt to frighten suspects to quickly sign documents that give away certain rights before any formal charges are filed. People who have nothing to do with the case are harassed by law enforcement simply because they may have fleeting knowledge of a suspect.

During a court appearance, Lavin wonders about the lives of many in the audience who are in their 20's and 30's; he is sure that more than a few gawking at him are users and dealers.
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