cover image Doctor Dealer

Doctor Dealer

Mark Bowden. Warner Books, $0 (331pp) ISBN 978-0-446-51382-1

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. (September 29)