Hep Cats, Narcs, and Pipe Dreams: A History of America's Romance with Illegal Drugs

Overview

Once upon a time in America, morphine and cocaine were routinely sold in pharmacies, and gamblers and rogues gathered in shadowy basements to smoke opium. So begins Hep-Cats, Narcs, and Pipe Dreams, Jill Jonnes's groundbreaking and textured history of illegal drugs in America. As the Victorian age drew to a close, Americans became alarmed at the availability of dangerous drugs, which were sold over the counter to relieve fevers and minor ailments. Amid a new spirit of temperance, Congress passed the Pure Food and...
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Overview

Once upon a time in America, morphine and cocaine were routinely sold in pharmacies, and gamblers and rogues gathered in shadowy basements to smoke opium. So begins Hep-Cats, Narcs, and Pipe Dreams, Jill Jonnes's groundbreaking and textured history of illegal drugs in America. As the Victorian age drew to a close, Americans became alarmed at the availability of dangerous drugs, which were sold over the counter to relieve fevers and minor ailments. Amid a new spirit of temperance, Congress passed the Pure Food and Drug Act, creating a new class of lawbreakers: drug addicts. Jonnes traces the spread of illegal drugs throughout our culture: from the freewheeling Prohibition era through World War II, to the "flower power" 1960s right up to the present, when stories about crack babies and the resurgence of heroin dominate newspaper headlines. Jonnes takes us on a dazzling tour of the American Century, from the glamour of Hollywood during the silent-screen period to Harlem's smoky jazz clubs to Miami's mean streets, detailing the high jinks and dirty tricks of the drug trafficking trade along the way. She also confronts a contemporary controversial issue - the legalization of drugs - offering real insight into the current political debate. Sweeping in scope and lavishly written, Hep-Cats, Narcs, and Pipe Dreams is an intriguing blend of social history and investigative reportage. Jill Jonnes has given us an extraordinary accomplishment that richly illuminates our culture and sets a brilliant new standard for historical narrative.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
At the turn of the century, Jonnes estimates, one American in 200 was a drug addictand most of these were genteel middle-class women taking cocaine or nostrums laced with opiates. This sweeping, highly colorful, riveting narrative resurrects a largely forgotten history of drug use and abuse in the U.S. Jonnes, who researched this topic extensively while completing her Ph.D. in American history from Johns Hopkins, strongly opposes today's illegal drug culture, arguing that marijuana, hallucinogens, cocaine and heroin are far more dangerous than alcohol and engender crime, violence, personal tragedy and a culture of irresponsibility and instant gratification. Beginning with Chinese opium dens, patent medicines and early, ostensibly antidrug Hollywood movies portraying druggies as glamorous hedonistic rebels, she moves on to jazz-age Harlem, 1950s Beat hipsters and then to the 1960s counterculture, whose gurus, like Timothy Leary and Allen Ginsberg, helped spread drug use to the broad middle class. Her entertaining chronicle includes side trips to 1930s Paris, the N.Y.C. mob underworld, Marseille's Corsican, CIA-abetted drug network of the 1950s and '60s and today's Colombian cocaine cartels. It culminates with a compelling argument against legalization or decriminalization, charging that privileged baby boomers forget the financial and educational advantages that allowed them to emerge from 1960s drug use relatively unscathed. (Aug.)
Library Journal
The result of research conducted while Jonnes was completing her doctorate at Johns Hopkins, this readable, fascinating work covers the ups and downs of drug use and abuse primarily in the United States from the late 19th century to the 20th-century's drug/AIDS connection. Moving from opium through morphine, heroin, psychedelics, and cocaine, the author features the diverse personalities of entertainers, gangsters, politicians, narcotics agents, hepsters, criminals, beatniks, and many others involved in various aspects of drug use, trade, and control. She examines policies of the Federal Narcotics Bureau with its self-promoting commissioner, the State Department's obsessed Cold War focus, the Colombian cartel, the French connection, Charlie Parker, Lucky Luciano, Timothy Leary, Carlos Lehder, and more. Well paced and informative, this book will interest general readers, academics, and politicians. Highly recommended.Suzanne W. Wood, SUNY Coll. of Technology, Alfred
Booknews
Exceptionally well-researched, this is the first comprehensive history of illegal drug use in America. Jonnes, a journalist and historian who recently curated a new museum for the Drug Enforcement Agency, wisely focuses on a succession of individuals to continually return to a human level what otherwise could have been an abstract sociological overview. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Donna Seaman
Jonnes, a former journalist and consummate researcher, charts the stealthy infiltration of hard drugs into our culture, identifying three "epidemics" over the course of the last 125 years, each more severe and damaging than the last. She chronicles the use of opium, cocaine, and marijuana when they were legal and offers an anecdotal look at the influence of drugs on the heady worlds of Hollywood and jazz. She moves on to scathing accounts of the psychedelic revolution, the cocaine craze of the 1970s, and the diabolical introduction of crack, again combining indelible profiles of individuals with shrewd cultural analysis, but the most valuable aspect of this compelling and invaluable work is her tracking of the federal government's aiding and abetting of drug traffickers, from the Sicilian Mafia to Corsican smugglers (the French connection) and Colombian cartels. Jonnes couldn't cover every facet of this complex subject, but her revelations do illuminate the connection between politics and narcotics and the deep hypocrisy that makes a mockery of our "war" on drugs.
Francine Prose
Tracks the colorful careers of movie stars and street junkies, drug traffivkers and federal agents, to document journalist Jill Jonnes's chillingly plausible these: that drug abuse is as much a part of our national heritage as Mom, the flag and apple pie.
Elle
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684196701
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 8/2/1996
  • Pages: 512
  • Product dimensions: 6.52 (w) x 9.56 (h) x 1.46 (d)

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