Fix

Michael Massing, Author, D. R. Bailey, Editor
Michael Massing, Author, D. R. Bailey, Editor Simon & Schuster $25 (335p) ISBN 978-0-684-80960-1
Reviewed on: 12/29/1997
Release date: 01/01/1998
The tabloidy, haranguing tone of the curious subtitle doesn't do justice to this book's careful research and well-written narrative. Far from being a love letter to Richard Nixon's drug policy, it discusses America's war on drugs in the context of real people suffering with addiction. Massing, a New York City-based reporter, has written about the drug trade for 10 years, so he has the knowledge and eye for detail that give this work its best moments. Believing that ""the policies being formulated in Washington today bear little relation to what is taking place on the street,"" Massing starts his story in Spanish Harlem, following the lives of Raphael Flores, who runs a struggling drop-in center for addicts, and Yvonne Hamilton, a crack addict trying to get her life together. The middle third of the book shifts dramatically in tone as Massing chronicles the evolution of the war on drugs in Washington. During Nixon's tenure, the government spent more money on treatment (the ""demand"" side) than on stopping drug trafficking (the ""supply"" side), which led to declines in both drug overdoses and crime rates. As successive presidents felt pressure to emphasize the ""war"" rather than treatment, the number of chronic addicts skyrocketed. In the last section Massing returns to Harlem, where Hamilton's struggle to remain drug-free makes for gripping reading. The Washington section works as political history, but the bios of various bureaucrats can't compete with the slices of Harlem street life. While Massing may think Nixon's strategy would work again today, Hamilton's story demonstrates that the drug problem is much more complicated than any government strategy. (Oct.)
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