Don't be put off by the film-noir title or the unimaginative cover. This is an excellent account of English social history in many respects. Ostensibly, this book is the fascinating factual account of the under side of late-Edwardian social life in London and its use of drugs, albeit mainly cocaine and morphine, that weren't at actually criminalised at that time.
Set in London pre and post-First World War, the main character is that of of Billie Carlton, a budding theatre actress at the end of the 1910's, who gets in with a certain 'seedy' crowd that many other people from many walks of life were members of at this time, there is even an account of the trend amongst upper-class ladies (one of whom recounted here was a very well-known aristocrat) having followed the Parisian trend of morphine tea-parties. Drugs, drug use and abuse are the main characters downfall but this well-researched book explores the difference in attitudes to drugs on a social basis at the beginning of the last century and how these widespread attitudes shaped the drug laws and people's perception of them up to the present day, for better or worse. Literally, writes the author, the one court case subsequent to the death of Billie Carlton at such a young age in 1919, from an apparent overdose of opium, initiated changes in drug legislation that remain with us.
The author covers not just these aspects but how the First World War, racism, class-structure and the new young generation of the time all combined in a heady mixture that was too much for the media and the government in the 1920's. A fascinating 'story' and personally I am glad that there are books such as Marek Kohn's 'Dope Girls' that dig up long forgotten and almost unknown parts of history like this.