Jervey Tervalon, Editor, Gary Phillips, Editor . Akashic $14.95 (250p) ISBN 978-1-888451-75-7

There are some strong entries in this depressing all-original anthology of 17 stories involving the always powerful, often destructive, effects of cocaine use. The editors call cocaine "the scourge of our times" in their introduction, and that judgment is evident whether the story is about a user, a dealer or someone simply caught up in someone else's thrall to the drug. Some tales offer a macabre sense of humor, such as Lee Child's "Ten Keys," in which a drug courier rips off a shipment, and Laura Lippman's "The Crack Cocaine Habit," in which two white girls venture into a bad neighborhood to make a buy. Children are the focus of Kerry E. West's shocking "Shame," about a kid who copes with her mother's habit and the world's indifference. Another child is the victim of her mother's habit in Nina Revoyr's highly effective "Golden Pacific." James Brown's sobering "The Screenwriter" details the rise and cocaine-induced fall of a screenwriter. Other contributors include editors Phillips and Tervalon, Ken Bruen, Bill Moody and Manuel Ramos. None of the stories glamorize cocaine, but some do exhibit what the editors call "scary charms." (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/14/2005
Release date: 04/01/2005
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