Jul 19, 2022 • 11M

Chapter 5, Part 1: “You should write the book”

Here's how and why I started working on a boook about "Pharma Bro" Martin Shkreli.

Upgrade to listen

Appears in this episode

Christie Smythe
My experiences uncovering the story of, and falling in love with, Martin Shkreli.
Episode details
An evening in New York City. (Getty Images)
An evening in New York City. (Getty Images)

It was an unseasonably warm Friday night in February 2017, and, though I was out with Martin Shkreli, it wasn’t a date. We were just wandering down Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, more or less aimlessly, both totally inept at finding a suitable place to sit down and chat about the book I was planning to write about him.

“What about here?” he asked, pointing to a basement bar with red velvet curtains. I wrinkled my nose and muttered that it seemed seedy. “It looks like a strip club,” he agreed. 

“How about that one?” he asked, pointing to what appeared to be a high-end bistro. “Mmmmm…too fancy,” I protested. He laughed and we continued walking south, towards Union Square.

Our easy rapport might have suggested there was something more going on between us, or at least that we were old friends. But I still mostly saw him only as the subject of the book I wanted to write. He was the “Pharma Bro,” who looked too young to be a CEO,  with a tendency to flout social norms, an over-the-top social media presence, and an open sense of defiance that made him a lightning rod… and an interesting subject.

And he saw me as the legal reporter who broke the story of his arrest on securities fraud charges in December 2015, a move that I knew was coming even before his lawyers did.

Improbably, over the course of our professional interaction, Martin and I had also struck up a friendship — of a type that wasn’t uncommon between sources and journalists, or biographers and their subjects. After all, if you spend a lot of time talking to someone, it’s likely that you probably at least somewhat enjoy their company.

I’d met up with Martin before our restaurant quest at a capsule-like office in a Chelsea coworking space. Even amidst his legal problems, he was busy working on a new startup,  a software company he’d named Godel Systems…

This episode is for paid subscribers