CHASING THE DRAGON by Christopher R. Cox


Into the Heart of the Golden Triangle
Email this review


 An often chilling account of the heroin trade from a Boston Herald reporter. Having done some stories on heroin addiction in Boston, Cox put together a sort of expedition to trace the drug to its source: the rebel Shan State of Burma, a remote, outlaw kingdom of jungle lowlands, impenetrable mountains, and fierce rivers. Cox connected with a sometime Hollywood actor and soldier of fortune, Barry Flynn, who set up an interview with General Khun Sa, the Shan State warlord who in 1994 controlled 60 percent of the world's heroin manufacture. (In an epilogue, Cox informs us that Khun Sa has since retired, in effect turning over his business to the Burmese government.) Cox travels with difficulty through the Shan State, visiting a poppy field and even trying some raw opium, but his arduous trek to reach Ho Mong, Khun Sa's opium town, is anticlimactic. The general seems neither evil nor wise; he offers up long-winded platitudes, Ö la Castro, about the hospitals and schools he's built, his own patriotism, and the stupidity of the American Drug Enforcement Agency. Otherwise, Cox has written rather a chaotic book: His portrait of the Bangkok sex trade is entertaining, but this information is available elsewhere; and his adventures with his traveling companion, Jay Sullivan, a man obsessed with the MIA/POW issue, would have been better served in another narrative entirely. Cox appears to admire writers such as Hunter Thompson and Michael Herr, but he lacks their sense of focus. Even so, the Shan State material is dynamite. There's the general's own two-step detox program, for instance: cold turkey in a dark pit, followed by beheading if the treatment doesn't take. Cox is a trifle disorganized, but at his best he takes you where no one else has been. (10 illustrations, not seen; 2 maps)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-8050-3863-9
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1996


IndieWHITE MONSOON by Scott Nelson
by Scott Nelson