The Vicodin Thieves by Chip Jacobs

Investigative reporter Chip Jacobs goes deep into some of his most compelling journalism pieces of the last three decades with his signature spotlight on strange corruption, seedy individuals, megalomaniacs, bright ideas, and transgressive game-changers. Featuring in-depth and expanded stories previously published in The New York TimesLos Angeles Times, and others,The Vicodin Thieves is an instant classic of crime, politics, and socio-analysis.


The Vicodin Thieves

by Chip Jacobs

Brace yourself for the unexpected, the maddening and the heartbreaking. The articles here range from Tommy Koulax's litigious hamburger empire, Lockheed's super-secret Skunk Works defense plant and the deadly 1913 construction accident at Pasadena's famous Colorado Street Bridge—to the hazy first casualty of Operation Desert Storm, chromium-6-pollution controversies, violent bus drivers and profiles of heavyweights former-mayor Richard Riordan, the firebreathing Danny Bakewell and the enigmatic Richard Alatorre, among others.

The Vicodin Thieves—which draws its title from pharmaceutical poachers who raid medicine cabinets during real estate open houses—includes expanded pieces on a high flying smog emissions broker who fell in with shadowy, ex-CIA and military-intelligence operatives to "repatriate" forgotten U.S. government aid from around the globe, and the unsolved, execution-style murder of one of America's most electrifying young mayors blocks from his childhood home.

Two new stories grace this compendium, too. One explores the inspiring life and horrendous killing of an early Universal Pictures prodigy (the author's great uncle, Nat Ross) by a sociopath who'd die in the San Quentin Gas Chamber. The other is about a pair of photographs of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. probably captured hours before he was assassinated in the kitchen of Los Angeles' old Ambassador Hotel. Few outside of Kennedyphiles know how close he came to not being there the night America's trajectory changed forever, or the cursed Hollywood connection to RFK's last days.

Rare Bird Books, A Vireo Book
Paperback, 2014: 9780985490256
US $17.95 | Nonfiction
Also available in ebook formats

Chip Jacobs is the author three previous books, The Ascension of JerrySmogtown, and Wheeling the Deal. His reporting has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Daily News, CNN, among other outlets. He lives in Los Angeles.

Chip Jacobs is an award-winning Los Angeles-area author and journalist. His latest book is The Vicodin Thieves: Biopsying L.A.'s Grifters, Gloryhounds and Goliaths, a collection of his best narrative, feature, and investigative articles since 1990. The Southern California Book Festival named it the best compilation/anthology in their 2013 awards.

Before that was the true crime thriller The Ascension of Jerry: Murder, Hitmen and the Making of L.A. Muckraker Jerry Schneiderman. Preceding those works, Jacobs co-authored the acclaimed social history Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles (The Overlook Press/Penguin Group USA) with William J. Kelly.

Jacobs' first book was Wheeling the Deal: The Outrageous Legend of Gordon Zahler, Hollywood's Flashiest Quadriplegic. Besides these, Jacobs' popular profile of former Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alatorre is included in the anthology Voices of the U.S.-Latino Experience. Chip is currently working on a new environmental book, a biography of two, longtime L.A. industrialists who've shared an astonishing journey and a historical novel. On the journalism side, Jacobs' work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Daily News of Los Angeles, LA Weekly, The New York Times, CNN, The Chicago Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, Southland Publishing,, and Bloomberg View, among other outlets. His writing has been honored by the Independent Book Publishers Awards (IPPY), the Hollywood Book Festival, the Green Book Festival, the city of Santa Monica's Green Prize for Sustainable Literature, Booklist, the California Newspapers Publishers Association, the Los Angeles Press Club, the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, and the Los Angeles Times.

Visit to learn more. Jacobs is a graduate of the University of Southern California and The American University in Washington, D.C. He broke into journalism in 1990 at The Los Angeles Business Journal. Jacobs lives in Southern California with his wife, a USC public relations professor, and their two children.

Praise for The Ascension of Jerry and Wheeling the Deal:

Chip Jacobs’ chops as an accomplished newspaperman are on brilliant display in (this) delightfully off-kilter true-crime… Jacobs’ prose is intimate, darkly funny, and crisp as he follows the twisted path… But here’s the thing: Jacobs’ ear for a good story is pitch perfect… The Ascension of Jerry isn’t an old song in a new key, but an entirely new song about crime, fear, and a weird kind of redemption that could only happen in the general vicinity of Hollywood. Jacobs is a genuine writer, not a wannabe scribbler. He knows what makes us keep turning pages…
Ron Franscell, celebrated true crime author
This amazing book is all heart…Jacobs blends the skills of an investigative journalist, the glitz of Hollywood, and the smooth storytelling of fiction to weave a profile of his larger-than-life uncle that will leave you crying, laughing and gasping in wonder, often on the same page. Bravo!
Denise Hamilton, author