Akashic Books, 250 pages, trade paperback, $15.95
Blow. Powder. Snow. Nose candy. Rock. Whatever you may call it, cocaine is a hell of a drug. And whether you snort it or smoke it (or, in the case of Jerry Stahl’s “Twilight of the Stooges,” shoot it up your anus with a straw), it can make anybody shake and grind their teeth, desperate for the next hit.
Akashic Books, known for the Noir series, are now prescribing the Drug Chronicles. The Cocaine Chronicles is a collection of short stories about those who do, those who deal, and those who are victimized by cocaine. What’s great about each of these 17 stories is that they are not sugar-coated — each one is raw, gritty, and, at times, disturbing.
The book is divided up into four sections: “Touched by Death,” “Fiending,” “The Corruption,” and “Gangsters & Monsters.” The book starts off with a bang in Lee Child’s “Ten Keys,” a story about a drug trader contemplating running off with a million dollars of drug money and ten keys of cocaine, resulting in his unexpected assassination. Another story I thoroughly enjoyed was “The Screenwriter” by James Brown, detailing a man’s painful progress in a rehabilitation center, as he endures the sweats and shakes of withdrawal and the failed reconciliation with his ex-wife.
Nino Revoyr’s “Golden Pacific” is a heartbreaking tale about a mother and daughter who get suckered into the dangerous world of prostitution and cocaine. The book ends on a more humorous note with co-editor Gary Phillips’ adrenaline-fueled “Disco Zombies” (the title says it all).
As someone who has never dared to go anywhere near coke, I found these stories only reinforced my fear. I’d prefer not to relate to any of the dark, deranged characters I’ve been introduced to.