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DRUG WARS by Tim Wells


An Oral History from the Trenches

by Tim Wells & William Triplett

Pub Date: May 18th, 1992
ISBN: 0-688-09548-8
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

 Junkies, dealers, narcs, and other combatants in the war on drugs speak out in this first-rate oral report from Wells (444 Days, 1985) and Triplett. Aiming to get the stories of those ``most intimately engaged on the front lines,'' the authors ``spent the last two years riding with undercover cops, and visiting jails, prisons, crack houses,'' etc. Here, that effort pays off handsomely with some truly riveting--and dismaying--reportage, tightly arranged into eight thematic chapters, each comprised of a brief introduction and several dozen statements, some signed, some anonymous. Even the innocuously titled opener, ``Recreational Users,'' makes your blood run cold as you listen to the woman who speaks of smoking pot for the first time at age nine (``I thought it was the neatest feeling in the world''); the Vietnam vet assigned to guard the White House (``I was stoned the entire time...''); the dealer who says that a crack high ``hits you with the force of religious revelation.'' And that's just for starters: The subsequent chapters (``Border Wars''; ``Dealers''; ``Cops''; ``Addiction''; ``Mean Streets''; ``Prosecution, Prison, and Punishment''; and ``Treatment'') detail moral pain (e.g., of the ravaged crack addict who runs into his mother: ``There was nothing but hurt in her eyes''); despair (e.g., of author Wells, who tells of visiting a shooting gallery and finding a little boy ``so filthy I didn't want to touch him''); and sociopathic violence (e.g., of the dealer who says, ``When a dude messed my money up, I'd cut him with a knife or I'd shoot him...You know, I had bills to pay'')--all so pervasive that you have to agree with the authors that ``the nation's drug enforcement policies have failed, and failed miserably.'' Smooth, smart, and very, very scary.