Hep Cats, Narcs, and Pipe Dreams: A History of America's Romance with Illegal Drugs

Jill Jonnes, Author Scribner Book Company $29.5 (510p) ISBN 978-0-684-19670-1
At the turn of the century, Jonnes estimates, one American in 200 was a drug addict--and most of these were genteel middle-class women taking cocaine or nostrums laced with opiates. This sweeping, highly colorful, riveting narrative resurrects a largely forgotten history of drug use and abuse in the U.S. Jonnes, who researched this topic extensively while completing her Ph.D. in American history from Johns Hopkins, strongly opposes today's illegal drug culture, arguing that marijuana, hallucinogens, cocaine and heroin are far more dangerous than alcohol and engender crime, violence, personal tragedy and a culture of irresponsibility and instant gratification. Beginning with Chinese opium dens, patent medicines and early, ostensibly antidrug Hollywood movies portraying druggies as glamorous hedonistic rebels, she moves on to jazz-age Harlem, 1950s Beat hipsters and then to the 1960s counterculture, whose gurus, like Timothy Leary and Allen Ginsberg, helped spread drug use to the broad middle class. Her entertaining chronicle includes side trips to 1930s Paris, the N.Y.C. mob underworld, Marseille's Corsican, CIA-abetted drug network of the 1950s and '60s and today's Colombian cocaine cartels. It culminates with a compelling argument against legalization or decriminalization, charging that privileged baby boomers forget the financial and educational advantages that allowed them to emerge from 1960s drug use relatively unscathed. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/29/1996
Release date: 08/01/1996
Paperback - 512 pages - 978-0-684-83406-1
Paperback - 510 pages - 978-0-8018-6165-9
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