Cocaine Nights

J. G. Ballard, Author
J. G. Ballard, Author Counterpoint LLC $23 (336p) ISBN 978-1-887178-66-2
Reviewed on: 12/01/1970
Release date: 12/01/1951
This new novel by the celebrated nihilist who brought us such underground classics as Crash and Concrete Island is fairly mild by Ballard standards. It involves kinky goings-on in a wealthy British resort community in Gibraltar, where there's not much to do but suntan, get high and play sex games. Narrator Charles Prentice is a travel writer who has been summoned to Estrella de Mar by his brother, the manager of the Club Nautico, who has confessed to setting a fire that killed five people in the villa of the wealthy Hollinger family. Charles knows Frank didn't do it, and so does everyone else, so Frank's motivation is a mystery. The delinquent shenanigans around town soon point to Frank's devoted tennis pro Bobby Crawford, who, with the missionary zeal of a sociopath, rouses the anesthetized residents of Estrella de Mar with violence and fear. ""You've seen the future and it doesn't work or play. People are locking their doors and switching off their nervous systems. I can free them,"" Crawford says. Ballard keeps the dialogue snappy and true; however, the leisurely pace, the comings and goings of this Porsche and that BMW, all the swimming and tennis practice sap the novel of any tension. Moreover, Charles is a dud; the charge inherent in one of his first sentences, ""My real luggage is rarely locked, its catches eager to be sprung,"" is never borne out by his actions or the relationship between him and his brother. Ballard's fascination with the illicit plays like a routine exercise, though his bleak picture of trouble in paradise has the ring of truth. (May)
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