So you are here. Hello.

Welcome to SMIRK, a serialized memoir of my experiences getting to know “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli, first as a reporter and then as a friend…and then falling in love with him. (And then, after a very public breakup, going back to being friends again.)

A common refrain among journalists who don’t write books is that they don’t think they have anything to say. Well, for the past several years, I’ve had the opposite problem. As my life unfolded, drawing me into ever-more challenging and intriguing circumstances, I found I had much to say, but no appropriate receptacle for it.

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Some of my story made it into public view by way of a profile of me in Elle magazine in December 2020, written by a talented journalist whom I happened to have been professional acquaintances with, Stephanie Clifford. Her piece laid down the bones of a shocking chronology: how I, a one-time reporter for a major media outlet, upended my life and career after developing affection for the so-called “most hated man in America.”

While the article masterfully described what had happened, it left many people unsatisfied (on social media and elsewhere) about why those things had happened. And those readers were right to wonder. Truthfully, the Elle piece revealed only the tip of a very large iceberg. There was so much more to be said, to be shown, and to be explained.

Martin Shkreli walking into the Brooklyn federal courthouse. (Getty Images)
Martin Shkreli walking into the Brooklyn federal courthouse. (Getty Images)

I had been trying since I first developed a rapport with Martin — who earned his egregiously bad reputation by jacking up the price of a drug used by AIDS patients, trolling people on the internet, and getting sent to prison for securities fraud — to write a book about his story. But over the course of my efforts to do just that (which proved to be much more difficult than I expected), it evolved into more than just his story. It became my story, too.

Judging from my interactions with publishers, I might have been able to sell a book through the standard channels had I painted Martin as the despicable villain so many people wanted to believe he was, or myself as a victim of his manipulations or our relationship as a doomed prison romance. But there was no way I could force myself to write something that didn’t feel true to me, and none of those approaches did.

As a result, the deepest and most interesting parts of my story have remained out of public view — until now.

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Substack seemed to me to be the perfect vehicle for putting the rest of my tale out into the world. An email newsletter platform for writers, it seeks to disrupt the publishing status quo by reducing the need for gatekeepers. I have a story that disrupts the narrative status quo and needs a path around gatekeepers in order to reach readers.

Like Charles Dickens’ novels, which were serialized in regular installments in the 19th century, my book will be distributed in consumable bites. Should you choose to subscribe, you will have access to new parts of SMIRK delivered to your email inbox multiple times each week for much of the next year.

Unlike with a traditional book, you will not only be able to read the work, you will be able to comment on it and tell me what you think. And there is a strong possibility that your opinions could help shape future passages, or selections of bonus materials I will make available to paying subscribers.

How it works

It’s simple, really. Just sign up to get on the list by entering your email and clicking “Subscribe.” Then you will start receiving SMIRK directly in your inbox. Some selections will be free, but others will be available only to paying subscribers.

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Paid subscriptions cost $5.00 per month or $35 for the entire duration of the Substack. Since this is a reader-supported publication, the only income I earn from this memoir is from these subscriptions. Should you be feeling generous and want to provide additional support to me in this endeavor, you are welcome to become a founding member/SMIRK patron — and you will have my eternal gratitude.

Any founding member (paying $50 or more for SMIRK) who subscribes by Sept. 30, 2023, when the book will be complete, will receive free lifetime rights to the archive as well as a free eBook. (If you have already paid $50 for SMIRK, rest assured you’re on my list.)

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Me (Christie Smythe), sitting on a park bench in Harlem. Photo by Stephen Yang.
Photo of me in Harlem (by Stephen Yang)

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What made me do the unthinkable and fall in love with Martin Shkreli.


Christie Smythe

Journalist in NYC, former EIC of The Business of Business. Alum of Mizzou and the Knight-Bagehot fellowship program at Columbia. A "media figure of mild infamy," according to Vulture.