Brilliant and terrifying evocation of the crack monster devouring Washington, D.C., coupled with addicts' biographies. Tidwell (The Ponds of Kalambayi, 1990)--white, suburban, 26 years old--went to work as a counselor in an inner-city halfway house for addicts on the same day that Georga Bush, promising a kinder, gentler America, was inaugurated. That year--1989--would see Washington with a higher homicide rate than that of Beirut; the imposition of martial law; drug czar William Bennett's masked, shotgun-toting shock troops; and 25 percent of the city's young black men in the prison system. Tidwell, a gifted storyteller, relates how, his first day on the job, he naively asked Jake--a recovering addict--what ""rock"" (crack) was; Jake's second lesson for Tidwell was hitting the deck when the nightly gunfire began outside. As Tidwell began to know these men--Vietnam vets, federal clerks, ex-cops, construction workers--who had been caught in crack's net and lost all, he wondered how they were able to stay clean against all reason: When they left the house, they would be offered crack by dealers before they had gone a block; without carfare, some walked 15 miles a day, day after day, vying for jobs that paid five dollars an hour; and virtually all had broken families. Their trust of Tidwell deepening, the men introduced him to Narcotics Anonymous, an underground, self-help fellowship modelled after AA, which silently has grown apace with the drug epidemic. Tidwell's description of Bennett's troops forcing dealers to retreat to new areas throughout the city--ironically insuring that at some time virtually every teenager would have a 24-hour drug market on or near his block--juxtaposed with his passionate stories of addicts rebuilding their lives with NA meetings, makes unforgettable reading and an unequivocal damnation of politicians' get-tough promises. Unique and important in recent addiction literature: a very fine achievement.