SMUGGLER'S BLUES by Richard Stratton


A True Story of the Hippie Mafia
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Former drug smuggler, TV writer, and magazine contributor Stratton (Altered States of America: Outlaws and Icons, Hitmakers and Hitmen, 2006, etc.) revels in his glory days in the drug trade and his eventual downfall at the hands of a determined government agent.

The author—a former publisher of High Times and consultant for HBO’s prison series Oz—is determined to showcase the romantic side of drug smuggling, admit that there is still an ugliness to it, and come out the hero of his own man-against-the-world narrative, all with a dose of humor and keeping the ultimate cool. He isn’t entirely successful, but the attempt results in a compulsively interesting story with the requisite drama and suspense that will keep the pages turning. From the beginning, Stratton frames the story as the ongoing battle between himself and Drug Enforcement Administration agent Bernard Wolfshein, who comes across as calm, confident, and a little obsessed with Stratton. In turn, the author portrays himself as cleverer, admittedly less confident, and at least equally obsessed with Wolfshein. Much of the humor is wrapped up in this cat-and-mouse chase, where Wolfshein always seems one step ahead and still doesn’t get his man. In the scenes featuring both men, Stratton’s background in TV writing is apparent; Wolfshein’s dialogue always sounds a bit like an episode of Law and Order. Stratton and his crew pulled off a surprising number of impressive smuggles while Wolfshein tried to pin them down, and Stratton throws in a lot of extra color by way of lavish spending, sex, and glittering parties that make heads spin. Near misses abound and offer great fun for readers, even though it’s obvious from the start that Stratton won’t stay free for long. Eventually, heavy hints and one too many existential rants become tiresome.

A wild, entertaining ride that could have been a little shorter.

Pub Date: April 5th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-62872-668-8
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Arcade
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2016


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