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New Novel 'The More They Disappear' Examines Small-Town Drug Abuse

By Seth Ferranti 08/01/16

Jesse Donaldson's debut novel is a riveting drug and crime misadventure that sheds light on the integral early stages of the current national opiate epidemic.

New Novel 'The More They Disappear' Examines Small-Town Drug Abuse
via author

Jesse Donaldson is no stranger to the impact that OxyContin can have on a community. The Kentucky native and novelist witnessed the realities of “Hillbilly Heroin” firsthand. In the late-to-mid '90s, when opioids flashed on the scene in Kentucky, he had his fill of pills, alcohol and bad decisions. In his debut novel, The More They Disappear, Donaldson brings light to the seemingly never-ending and growing opiate epidemic in our country—a problem that seems to spiral out of control more and more each day.

Author Jesse Donaldson (Photo by Danny Brown)

The story’s jumping-off point is the murder investigation of a long-time Kentucky sheriff who is gunned down by a teenager in the throes of addiction and all that comes with it. A chief deputy is charged with running the investigation and solving the crime. But the more the deputy investigates, the deeper the web spins. He is thrown into a world of trailer parks and ATV trails, tobacco farms and country clubs, and riverboat casinos to the rich Kentucky suburbs. 

“The initial crime was taken from a real life event. A long-time Kentucky sheriff was murdered by a strange cabal—a political rival, a drug-dealer, and an addict. I changed the story a lot but that was my entry into the book’s subject matter,” Donaldson tells The Fix. “The entire idea of a sheriff seems odd to me. It’s an elected official who enforces the law. That’s kind of a red flag, right? Especially in counties where there’s little other police presence. A corrupt sheriff can dole out favors or enact revenge. The position, by design, lends itself to abuse.”

The novel is like a mash-up of Justified meets Methland—a riveting drug and crime misadventure that represents the early days of the Oxy situation and sheds light on a time period that was integral to what’s become our national opiate epidemic. As all the evidence from the deputy’s investigation points toward an unlikely suspect, he questions whether the law can even handle the chaos that the Oxy trade unleashed. The story takes on small-town drug abuse firsthand and takes readers into the darkest parts of the drug-addicted characters.

“An editor wanted me to set the book in 2016, but I said no. The Oxy situation has changed. People still abuse Oxy, but the state’s prescription drug monitoring system is fairly effective. To Kentucky’s credit, it was one of the first states to realize how big a problem Oxy was and took steps to stem the tide of pills,” Donaldson tells The Fix. “And yet, as we know now, what the state couldn’t control was the vacuum that its regulation created. Into that vacuum entered heroin. Kentucky, like the rest of America, is fighting a terrible heroin problem. Especially in the northern part of the state, where my book is set.”

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After landing on the US Marshals Top-15 Most Wanted list and being sentenced to a 25 year sentence in federal prison for a first-time, nonviolent LSD offense, Seth built a writing and journalism career from his cell block. His raw portrayals of prison life and crack era gangsters graced the pages of Don DivaHoopshype and VICE. From prison he established Gorilla Convict, a true-crime publisher and website that documents the stories that the mainstream media can’t get with books like Prison Stories and Street Legends. His story has been covered by The Washington PostThe Washington Times, and Rolling Stone.

Since his release in 2015 he’s worked hard to launch GR1ND Studios, where true crime and comics clash. GR1ND Studios is bringing variety to the comic shelf by way of the American underground. These groundbreaking graphic novels tell the true story of prohibition-era mobsters, inner-city drug lords, and suburban drug dealers. Seth is currently working out of St. Louis, Missouri, writing for The FixVICEOZY, Daily Beast, and Penthouse and moving into the world of film. Check out his first short, Easter Bunny Assassin at You can find Seth on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.

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