on 30 August 2005
Reading 'Cocaine', I had the sense of an author developing as a writer as the book went on: I found the first few pages too full of slang, and almost put the book down. However, as the account went from Condamine's journey in Ecuador to Freud's discovery of cocaine in Vienna, to the origins of Coca Cola, I realised that this author's researches were comprehensive and found myself marking more and more interesting passages, e.g. the behaviour of rats who are given cocaine (they take it until they die) compared to rats who are given heroin (they adjust).
As the focus of the book turns to post-war America and to Columbia, I was gripped. The account of the failings of the War on Drugs and on the human costs of the conflict between the Medellin/ Cali cartel and the Columbian state is first rate.
This is a fascinating book for anyone interested in history, contemporary politics and geopolitics. I commend Dominic Streatfeild as an author whose bravery in arranging interviews with Columbian drug lords is matched by his command of the material.
on 21 February 2002
Not, must I hasten to add, from the use of Cocaine, but from the inability to put this book down at night. In only two days, and limited peroids of time between work and sleep, I have managed to get through a quarter of this, everso readable book.
The story so far has taken me through history lessons in the story of Coca and Cocaine, all the way through; North American Idians, Inca's, the Spanish, the French ..... deep breath..... aswell as a whole host of Dr's, chemists, specialists.... wait there's more.... Freud, Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir Authur Conan Doyle. Wow, and not even half way through yet.
I don't profess to read a great deal or have any talent for book reviews (or writing in general!). However, I feel that this is a good opportunity for people, like me, who rarely find, or make time to read, to make the effort here and learn some stuff.
As for the rest of you, those of you who consume books in the matter of time it takes me to eat my toast of a morning, what are you waiting for?
Whatever your stance on the subject of Cocaine, there is as a whole lot of information here, all, so far very interesting, extremely well written, and so easy to read.
I can't wait to get home and read more! Mr Streatfield, has, in my opinion a charming sense of humour and a style of writing which I am throughly enjoying.
on 8 September 2003
In Peru, my home country, coca is part of both, ancient and current Andean culture. It's common for us to wear t-shirts that say "Coca leaves are not cocaine" and this is perfectly expressed in Dominic's book. This "anauthorized biography" not only shows with high realism how difficult it is for South Americans to destroy a plant that has always been part of our lives, but it gives us a clear panorama of the whole problem, from every point of view. I recalled my history classes.
The book must be translated into Spanish! Thousands of Peruvians, Mexicans, Colombians and Bolivians (who do not read English) would enjoy the author's humor and accuracy.
on 28 March 2002
This book provides an exceptional and thought-provoking insight into the issue of Cocaine and its corrosive effects. It offers a very thorough and modern perspective on Cocaine identifying the social, political, economic and cultural effects of it's use around the globe.
The first part of the book traces the origins of Cocaine and it's initial uses in South America and the beginning of its use and popularity in Europe and the U.S. However where the book really takes off is in its analysis of the rise and (relative) explosion of Cociane use from the 60's onwards. Covering all sides of the story, from the drug-official combating cocaine to the drug lord supplying the market, this book provides a fair and objective analysis. Along the way it asks some uncomfortable questions about American foreign Policy, Racism and poverty, prohibition and the freedom of the individual, and the role of media hype and manipulation.
The only slight quibble might be with the style of the writing which veres from serious reportage to a conversational and pseudo Hunter S. Thompson style. However this book is well researched(using both primary and secondary sources) , non-judgemental and covers every concievable angle around an elusive and dangerous topic.
Highly recommended for anyone with a slight interest in one of the most controversial and contemporary issues of debate in modern Western society.
on 15 June 2001
'We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold'. Hunter S. Thompson, Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.
Lying in a hammock in deepest Peru, Dominic Streatfeild's meticulous and illuminating account of the history of cocaine hydrochloride opens in much the same fashion as Thompson's savage journey to the heart of American darkness. His globe-spanning odyssey never fails to provoke favourable comparison with the gonzo journalist's ability to cut right to the heart of a culture rotten to its very core.
In this tradition of journalistic flair Streatfeild submerges himself in the world of cocaine with an ear for the truth and an eye for the outrageous. In doing so he produces a socio-political investigation that lucidly dissects a multi-billion dollar industry second only to oil in revenue generation.
Streatfeild treads the thin white line between eulogising and damning cocaine with great aplomb, resulting in a thorough and balanced appraisal of the effects that the drug has had on our society. With a wry sense of humour, healthy scepticism and no shortage of bravery he peels away the layers that shroud the cocaine industry. His soundly argued prose, interviews with all manner of scientists, traffickers, guerrillas and enforcement agents and colourful digressions upon such varied topics as Coca-Cola, Freud and Sherlock Holmes build a startling and comprehensive picture of a drug that pervades every facet of our society.
As he draws all the strands of the industry together, from the coca fields and corruption soaked governments of Central and South America to the streets and crackhouses of metropolitan America it is the spectre of Columbia that looms largest of all. In a country both lubricated and paralysed by drug money the spiral of appalling brutality that has enveloped Columbia over the past three decades reads like a thriller of the highest order. The knowledge that the events are all too true gives the work a powerful and chilling resonance and evokes echoes of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's seminal 'News of a Kidnapping'.
Streatfield's is a reasoned voice in an unreasonable world. On closing the book you are left questioning who is really to blame for the proliferation of cocaine: the Cartels who recognised and exploited a niche in the market, the insatiable American demand which provides the engine for the cocaine problem or the media attention that the drug elicits. One thing is for certain in the War on Drugs, in basic economic terms cocaine will never be yesterday's news.
William Burroughs described cocaine as 'the most exhilarating drug I have ever taken' and it is safe to say that Streatfeild has written the most exhilarating and definitive account of that drug yet available.
on 30 June 2002
Mr Streatfield's book should be required reading, particulary for those who still feel that the War on Drugs has any remaining credibility. Mr Streatfield has a lot to report, and adopts a somewhat gonzo-journalist approach to get it all across. But slowly, thoroughly, considerately, thoughtfully, he builds the story from coca's pre-history to the present, and leaves the reader to draw most of the conclusions. A brave man indeed.
As a taxpayer, I'm ashamed that Western politicians, particularly in the US and the UK, will not acknowledge the catastophic harm that current drug legislation does - far beyond and in addition to the miseries caused by the drugs themselves.
What can anyone do? Read the book - encourage the debate - press for change at every opportunity. Even then I don't hold out much hope that that will be enough against the vested interests that get the airtime - drug agencies that need employment, politicians who need an election win, the press that needs to sell its papers - not forgetting the billionaire traffickers who unsurprisingly enrich themselves defeating the ridiculous system our tax dollars pay for.
on 5 November 2005
If you have even the smallest of passing interests in the subject of drugs, whether it be their position in history, their social consequences, or how they affect the lives of people involved with them, then this is a must read.
The author uses an informal style to get the information across and at no point does he ever try to preach or ever become pretentious. In fact at some points he sympathises with those at the "business" end of things. Whether it be the coca growers, or crack addicts. He's certainly done his homework and the book is also packed with interviews and comments from people in the drugs trade, on both sides of the fence rather than focusing on either the traffickers or the people trying to stop them.
Very informative, from the discovery of cocaine to its place in modern society. It reads like a novel at some points and is a worthy read for anyone
on 1 April 2016
While it starts a bit uncertain, it gets better and better.
Of course, the book is somewhat old. It misses the last 15 years of development on the subject, so maybe it is not the best for someone who is interested in the recent history in the "war on drugs".
However, I would recomend without esistation to however wants notions of the history of cocaine.
on 30 April 2001
I do not, as a general rule, read much non-fiction. Nor do I have a huge interest in cocaine. And yet, Dominic Streatfeild's book engaged and entertained me for the entirety of its 500 pages. Streatfeild has a huge talent for bringing history to life, drawing the reader in to his personal quest for the truth behind the history of cocaine without allowing himself to become side-tracked by his own personal exploits or opinions. This book is not just about cocaine. It's about politics, economics, science, religion, crime and, as much as anything, human nature. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
on 12 May 2002
As addictive as the drug itself !!!
A fantastic read that brings together 2 years of research and countless other texts into an enlightening, entertaining, dark and thought provoking book. If you want to know about the white stuff this is the book.
Suddenly all the films involving drugs make sense !!
Fantastic...well done Dominic !