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Sam Quinones      

Journalist & Author of "Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic"

Sam Quinones is a Los Angeles-based freelance journalist and author of three books of narrative nonfiction. His latest book is Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic, for which he traveled across the United States.

Dreamland recounts twin stories of drug marketing in the 21st Century: A pharmaceutical corporation flogs its legal new opiate prescription painkiller as nonaddictive. Meanwhile, immigrants from a small town in Nayarit, Mexico devise a method for retailing black-taheroin-likeke pizza in the US, and take that system nationwide, riding a wave of addiction to prescription pills from coast to coast. The collision of those two forces has led to America's deadliest drug scourge in modern times.

Dreamland won a National Book Critics Circle award for the Best Nonfiction Book of 2015.

It was also selected as one of the Best Books of 2015 by,, the Daily Beast, Buzzfeed, Seattle Times, Boston Globe, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Entertainment Weekly, Audible, and in the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg Business by Nobel economics laureate, Prof. Angus Deaton, of Princeton University.

Quinones’ previous two highly acclaimed books grew from his 10 years living and working as a freelance writer in Mexico (1994-2004).

True Tales From Another Mexico: The Lynch Mob, the Popsicle Kings, Chalino and the Bronx was released in 2001. It is a cult classic of a book from Mexico’s vital margins – stories of drag queens and Oaxacan Indian basketball players, popsicle makers and telenovela stars, migrants, farm workers, a narcosaint, a slain drug balladeer, a slum boss, and a doomed tough guy.

In 2007, he came out with Antonio's Gun and Delfino's Dream: True Tales of Mexican Migration. In it, Quinones narrates the saga of the Henry Ford of Velvet Painting, and of how an opera scene emerged in Tijuana, and how a Zacatecan taco empire formed in Chicago. He tells the tale of the Tomato King, of a high-school soccer season in Kansas, and of Mexican corruption in a small LA County town. Threading through the book are three tales of a modern Mexican Huck Finn. Quinones ends the collection in a chapter called "Leaving Mexico" with his harrowing tangle with the Narco-Mennonites of Chihuahua.

Sam Quinones is formerly a reporter with the L.A. Times, where he worked for 10 years (2004-2014). He is a veteran reporter on immigration, gangs, drug trafficking, the border.

Speech Topics

DREAMLAND: America's Opiate Epidemic and How We Got Here


Journalist, author Sam Quinones to speak at Festival of Ideas

Before writing his latest book “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic,” Sam Quinones spent a lot of time writing about a place he later found out had a lot to do with the problem: Mexico.

Quinones, the featured speaker for West Virginia University’s David C. Hardesty Jr. Festival of Ideas this year, was a freelance writer there from 1994 until 2004, focusing on small-town life and immigration.

He came back to the United States in 2004 to work for the LA Times, where he was assigned to write about the success of Mexican drug traffickers in the United States.

“I really backed into this story,” Quinones said of the opiate epidemic. “I do not start with the pills, I started with heroin. My question was why were the heroin traffickers doing such big business in America today from Mexico.”

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