THE PEOPLE VS. BABY by Gertrude Samuels


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Gertrude Samuels, a New York Times reporter, has studied and written about drug addiction for a number of years; in particular she has examined the plight of young Harlem girls who fall prey to the habit and their consequent lives on the streets and in the prisons. This book is documentary fiction, and the characters -- Baby, a lovely young Puerto Rican girl who becomes a prostitute to support her habit and is in and out of jail until she enters the Synanon program; Chip, her boyfriend, who robs cabbies for drug money; Mr. Little, the youth center leader who is killed by young thugs; Barney Madox, the D.A. in charge of drug addiction; and so forth --are ""composite"" characters, made up from people Samuels has known. She, of course, is Rachael, the reporter who helps Baby and whose constant pleas for less punishment and more humane help for the addict is the book's dominant message. For that alone the book is worthwhile; as fiction it slips. The characters are too obviously examples of types; much of the intersecting of people, attitudes and the law is heavily done and stilted, for the transparent journalistic purpose of showing as large of a social picture of drug addiction as possible. Actually, this larger social picture is more believable than the ""inner"" lives of the characters. Samuels has tried hard, but it really seems impossible for a non-addict to portray the complex turmoil of an addict. Nevertheless, the book is a gallant effort, and its urgent plea for help certainly needs an audience that will listen.

Pub Date: May 5th, 1967
Publisher: Doubleday