THE VIRTUES OF HELL by Pierre Boulle


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As can be assumed, M. Boulle can turn his practiced hand to just about anything that comes into his head and effortlessly style a trim, intelligent entertainment with just a little something more. . . than you expect. In this case the story of an addict in particular, John Butler (""not a very common type"" -- he owes something to Conrad's Lord Jim), a Viet vet with a lifelong record of failure, cowardice and remorse -- and an underground operation which gives him a chance to feed his habit if nothing else after an army doctor had failed to rehabilitate him. The organization is about to import five tons of pure (95%) heroin from Burma to be processed back home in Indiana. It will be smuggled out on a long caravan trek through unkind terrain and Butler persuades them to let him take part -- this sick sad sack who finds a new kind of high through a commitment which until now he has never experienced. . . . Boulle's novel is to be read on two levels -- one perhaps not more than skin deep, the other not as fast-acting as American readers, inured to violence, might like. But it's a quite fascinating fix on the chemistry of heroin and often as insidious as those poppies for forgetfulness.

Pub Date: Oct. 29th, 1974
Publisher: Vanguard