hits counter Cocaine: An Unauthorized Biography - Ebook PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

Cocaine: An Unauthorized Biography

Availability: Ready to download

The story of cocaine isn't just about crime and profit; it's about psychoanalysis, about empire building, about exploitation, emancipation, and, ultimately, about power. To tell the story of the twentieth century without reference to this drug and its contribution is to miss a vital and fascinating strand of social history. Streatfeild examines the story of cocaine from it The story of cocaine isn't just about crime and profit; it's about psychoanalysis, about empire building, about exploitation, emancipation, and, ultimately, about power. To tell the story of the twentieth century without reference to this drug and its contribution is to miss a vital and fascinating strand of social history. Streatfeild examines the story of cocaine from its first medical uses to the worldwide chaos it causes today. His research takes him from the arcane reaches of the British Library to the isolation cells of America's most secure prisons; from the crackhouses of New York to the jungles of Bolivia and Colombia.


Compare

The story of cocaine isn't just about crime and profit; it's about psychoanalysis, about empire building, about exploitation, emancipation, and, ultimately, about power. To tell the story of the twentieth century without reference to this drug and its contribution is to miss a vital and fascinating strand of social history. Streatfeild examines the story of cocaine from it The story of cocaine isn't just about crime and profit; it's about psychoanalysis, about empire building, about exploitation, emancipation, and, ultimately, about power. To tell the story of the twentieth century without reference to this drug and its contribution is to miss a vital and fascinating strand of social history. Streatfeild examines the story of cocaine from its first medical uses to the worldwide chaos it causes today. His research takes him from the arcane reaches of the British Library to the isolation cells of America's most secure prisons; from the crackhouses of New York to the jungles of Bolivia and Colombia.

30 review for Cocaine: An Unauthorized Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Caty

    So far: First of all--a note on the book's tone, which is familiar, cutesy, silly, very British. A bit *too* silly, it is also endearing, & can get the reader through a lot of initially dry but important material such as Inca history, Spanish colonial mines & the forced labor system of mita imposed on the native South Americans, patent medicines, & the way cocaine interweaves through all these stories. I also enjoyed how he depicted the process of research for the book itself, making it the humor So far: First of all--a note on the book's tone, which is familiar, cutesy, silly, very British. A bit *too* silly, it is also endearing, & can get the reader through a lot of initially dry but important material such as Inca history, Spanish colonial mines & the forced labor system of mita imposed on the native South Americans, patent medicines, & the way cocaine interweaves through all these stories. I also enjoyed how he depicted the process of research for the book itself, making it the humorous, sometimes futile process it so often is & making the reader aware that this analysis wasn't out there written in stone but existed as invisible connections never made before between all sorts of old texts in the British library, for example. Streatfield naively doesn't question criminalization, & does bring in some fairly tainted stuff like the infamous "cocaine rat" experiments (hint: they worked that way b/c the animals' landscapes were bare of any other normal stimulus, & the rats' lives were traumatized and barren. When placed in normal social contexts with a complex environment to explore & interact with, rats and other animals do *not* choose Drugs Over Life, but instead seem to settle on a moderate daily dose of whatever it is, even decreasing their intake if the solution given to them becomes more potent.) But that doesn't mean this book isn't chock full of yummy, relevant research & Streatfield does undermine drug hysteria no matter what his views are. ** Finished the book--scratch that, he does go into decrim as one of the few viable responses to cocaine as a political issue, but only really in the very last chapter of his nearly 500 page book. I guess the "cocaine is bad for you, mmmmk? " tone of the book fooled me--I wished he'd just said that it's part of a vast pharmacopia that humankind has been using for centuries & that it can be useful in strict moderation--you know, some harm reduction smarts, recognizing that it's not the drug itself but set, setting, and situation. He does rail against demonization of the drug, & drug war horror myths about it, as well as show a deep sympathy to poor South American coca growers whose economic needs are ignored or responded to in incredibly unrealistic ways---or the way they & their environment are sabotaged by the US spreading a fungus that kills coca plants--& EVERYTHING ELSE--on their soil. & he also makes an all important distinction between coca and cocaine--one is a *mild* stimulant that's been integrated into South American culture for thousands of years, while the other, much more intense, is a modern development. Most studies of cocaine don't go into coca, its precursor, & that's a huge failing that Streatfield wisely avoids. I was fascinated at the beginning of the book when he tries coca chewing himself--amazing intro gimmick. The last thing that really bothered me is how uncritical he was about the addiction/dopamine studies of Dr. Nora Volkow (Trotsky's granddaughter, by the way, as Susan Cheever, another uncritical audience for these addiction studies, tell us in her silly sex addiction book), especially the animal studies, not seeking out any opposing theories, and not putting in the disclaimer that the study of neurotransmitters is still in its infancy. But besides these faults, the book was incredibly informative, & though silly, quite fun to read.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Excellent book. Streatfield has done his homework and really gives you the full picture. He gives you the coca plants history all the way back to the Incas and explains how enmeshed it is in South American culture. He then explains the difference between coca and it's refined cousins cocaine and eventually crack. Streatfield sets the scene for the cocaine battle between South America and US drug enforcement agencies and explains why we will never eradicate this drug. He offers different opinions Excellent book. Streatfield has done his homework and really gives you the full picture. He gives you the coca plants history all the way back to the Incas and explains how enmeshed it is in South American culture. He then explains the difference between coca and it's refined cousins cocaine and eventually crack. Streatfield sets the scene for the cocaine battle between South America and US drug enforcement agencies and explains why we will never eradicate this drug. He offers different opinions on how to curtail it's use and harvest. I have always had an issue with the US coming into another country and demanding they end a major economy. In fact unrefined coca in it's natural form has many health benefits and is highly nutritious. True, cocaine is a terrible drug to get involved with. In it's processed forms, it is highly addictive and is detrimental to ones health in large doses. However, coca plants grow very easily, even in nutrient poor soil. The coca farmers Streatfield interviews all say the same thing, growing coca has feed their families and provided an income for them. Asking a family to stop producing something that provides their sole income is a ridiculous proposal. I can see a parallel between cocaine and let's say McDonald's. Both are highly processed materials that have serious health effects on a regular user. America exports McDonald's and all it's health problems to other countries every year, and we make a ton of income off this export. You could argue McDonald's is propelling the obesity epidemic into a global issue. True McDonald's isn't the sole factor in obesity, however, cocaine is not the sole factor on the global drug market. Or for that matter we could look at another product the US grows, distributes and profits from, tobacco. Highly addictive, terrible health effects, it is also highly profitable to the US. I would argue that if any other country attempted to force the US to eradicate this plant we would be outraged and screaming to the heavens. Lobbyist and politicians would begin the sad song of tobacco providing our poor farmers a livable income. Well, that's true for the coca farmers. The UN has tried several replacement crops in hopes farmers would cultivate those instead. Unfortunately so far, no other crop has provided the farmers with a livable wage. We aren't giving these farmers any alternative. We can't ask someone to give up something that is feeding their family. I think Streatfield put it best when he states that South America is being punished in the "war on drugs" because the US is unable to enforce it's own drug laws. In my opinion the US has no right to expect citizens of other countries stop growing a plant they have grown for centuries, is part of their culture and heritage, provides a sustainable living all because we are unable to control it's use in our own country.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jordan

    Well researched, well written. Strikes the ideal non-fiction balance between being engaging and being informative. Starting in the coca plants ancient history, Streatfeild takes you on a tour that passes through it's discovery by the West, the creation of the drug cocaine, the epidemic of cocaine use when it was considered a medicine, the subsequent push to criminalize and decrease use, the creation of an enormous illicit trade, the creation of crack cocaine, and through the "war on drugs" to ta Well researched, well written. Strikes the ideal non-fiction balance between being engaging and being informative. Starting in the coca plants ancient history, Streatfeild takes you on a tour that passes through it's discovery by the West, the creation of the drug cocaine, the epidemic of cocaine use when it was considered a medicine, the subsequent push to criminalize and decrease use, the creation of an enormous illicit trade, the creation of crack cocaine, and through the "war on drugs" to take a deeper look at the main South American countries that grow the majority of the world's coca. Along the way, he introduces you to the many colorful characters who have played a role in the cocaine saga including Sigmund Freud, Dennis Hopper, Rick Ross and Pablo Escobar to name a few of the more household names. The only area it skimps is the "neuroscience" side of things and I think that is appropriate. There are more than enough review papers online where you can get your fill of neurophysiology. I was particularly impressed by the humor, warmth and balance that Streatfeild writes with. He is able to hold a remarkably neutral position for the majority of the book, and the curiosity and amusement in his tone becomes infectious and makes the book hard to put down. Do yourself a favor and pick it up! It really is amazing how this drug has woven itself into the history of the world in the last 200 years. Read the book and decide for yourself what that says about us as a species.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tippy Jackson

    Maybe 4.5 stars. We start with exploring coca the plant, journey through the early medical uses of the plant, which include being one of the first topical anesthetics- particularly important for eye surgery in which the patients needed to move their eyes when the doctor told them, so they had to be awake. This was seriously painful to read. Of course, early on, folks thought of it as a wonder drug. It talks us through the cycles of cocaine's popularity and of course, the crack epidemic. It spends Maybe 4.5 stars. We start with exploring coca the plant, journey through the early medical uses of the plant, which include being one of the first topical anesthetics- particularly important for eye surgery in which the patients needed to move their eyes when the doctor told them, so they had to be awake. This was seriously painful to read. Of course, early on, folks thought of it as a wonder drug. It talks us through the cycles of cocaine's popularity and of course, the crack epidemic. It spends a lot of time on propaganda and drug hysteria-misinformation spread about drugs, citing common themes of racism, exaggerations of the impacts of drugs and "won't somebody think of the children!!" Reading some of the old messages and claims were hilarious. He talks about coca being given to slaves (particularly the Inca in South America) and sharecroppers so they could work for hours/days without needing food or drink. He goes to the early days of crack and interviews drug lords etc. He talks about the violence associated with the cartels and the corruption in all countries involved. Over all, there's some really interesting stuff in here. A lot of it. But it's written in an entertaining fashion.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    "Drug use was unAmerican, goddammit. You wouldn't catch Abraham Lincoln smoking crack." What can I say about this book? Informative, engaging, cheekily written, and thought-provoking. While I think Streatfield occasionally ventures into tinfoil hat territory, he backs up his arguments, so they don't seem AS tin-foil hatty. From the ancient Incas to 1980s Columbia, if cocaine use happened anywhere, Streatfield covers it - and goes the extra mile (in my opinion) in spending time about the very real "Drug use was unAmerican, goddammit. You wouldn't catch Abraham Lincoln smoking crack." What can I say about this book? Informative, engaging, cheekily written, and thought-provoking. While I think Streatfield occasionally ventures into tinfoil hat territory, he backs up his arguments, so they don't seem AS tin-foil hatty. From the ancient Incas to 1980s Columbia, if cocaine use happened anywhere, Streatfield covers it - and goes the extra mile (in my opinion) in spending time about the very real chemical effects of cocaine on the brain. He ends the book with a hypothesis - would making cocaine legal cut down on all of the profit traditionally associated with the drug? I found myself violently rejecting the notion - and then questioning why I did so. To me, anything that you read, encounter, etc., that makes you take a step back from what you may have previously thought to consider a different possibility (even if it ultimately means rejecting said possibility) is like....the heart of why I read. I can't recall talking this much about a book in a while, and honestly, it's ripe for discussion. So good job, Streatfield. You've given me feelings about cocaine.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Gabe Labovitz

    Fascinating story, well-written, with just the right amount of British humour (see what I did there?). Probably the only fault I have is how old it is. I'd love to know the current status of cocaine; I suspect that there is little powder cocaine around in the US and it is mostly crack. Some people might find the beginning chapters a little dry - coca leaves have been chewed in South America for centuries, generally for the "lift" it provides, in terms of energy and ability to concentrate and wor Fascinating story, well-written, with just the right amount of British humour (see what I did there?). Probably the only fault I have is how old it is. I'd love to know the current status of cocaine; I suspect that there is little powder cocaine around in the US and it is mostly crack. Some people might find the beginning chapters a little dry - coca leaves have been chewed in South America for centuries, generally for the "lift" it provides, in terms of energy and ability to concentrate and work. Streatfeild, apparently, interviewed drug kingpins, DEA agents, politicians, dealers...a well-researched, informative book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Evelyn

    Books on drug culture seem to have become somewhat redundant in recent years with the rise of documentaries on Netflix, so perhaps the reason that I found Streatfeild's history of cocaine so fascinating was because it was like watching a Vice documentary, only in book form. This hefty 500 page+ tomb appeared rather daunting from the outset but thanks to Streatfeild's friendly and always engaging tone throughout, I found myself instantly sucked into the crazy world of cocaine - the gangs, the pol Books on drug culture seem to have become somewhat redundant in recent years with the rise of documentaries on Netflix, so perhaps the reason that I found Streatfeild's history of cocaine so fascinating was because it was like watching a Vice documentary, only in book form. This hefty 500 page+ tomb appeared rather daunting from the outset but thanks to Streatfeild's friendly and always engaging tone throughout, I found myself instantly sucked into the crazy world of cocaine - the gangs, the politics, the abuses, the addictions, and everything else in between. It's riveting from start to finish and packed full of well-researched info that never gets boring.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Bury

    THIS! This book is one of the most thoroughly researched and interesting I have ever read on any subject. Dominic Streatfield delves into his work with the zeal of an archeologist searching for El Dorado. The detail of his research comes to life in his absolutely entertaining and enthralling prose. He exceeds expectations by taking an already fascinating subject like cocaine and making it even more interesting. With colorful interviews and anecdotes, some that stretch belief but are definitely e THIS! This book is one of the most thoroughly researched and interesting I have ever read on any subject. Dominic Streatfield delves into his work with the zeal of an archeologist searching for El Dorado. The detail of his research comes to life in his absolutely entertaining and enthralling prose. He exceeds expectations by taking an already fascinating subject like cocaine and making it even more interesting. With colorful interviews and anecdotes, some that stretch belief but are definitely examples of magical realism, he shows what can become reality because of the influence a drug like cocaine has on the world.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    A very interesting story, part journey of a man, part research into the drug's origin. The stories he told about how he came about with the knowledge he shares is often more interesting than the drug itself. You might need to do a bit of cocaine to get through the drier parts but overall educating and amusing.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Long

    Very British, had a few audible laughs while reading this. I took the first half of the book with a grain of salt as the writer mentions, but doesn’t seem to double down on, the fact that some of it is largely speculative but can be considered plausible by some supporting events/documents. Would love to see a follow up on how the trade has changed in the last twenty years.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Virus

    CRISP

  12. 4 out of 5

    Col

    Blurb...... The story of cocaine isn’t just about crime and profit; it’s about psychoanalysis, about empire building, about exploitation, emancipation, and, ultimately, about power. To tell the story of the twentieth century without reference to this drug and its contribution is to miss a vital and fascinating strand of social history. Streatfeild examines the story of cocaine from its first medical uses to the worldwide chaos it causes today. His research takes him from the arcane reaches of the Blurb...... The story of cocaine isn’t just about crime and profit; it’s about psychoanalysis, about empire building, about exploitation, emancipation, and, ultimately, about power. To tell the story of the twentieth century without reference to this drug and its contribution is to miss a vital and fascinating strand of social history. Streatfeild examines the story of cocaine from its first medical uses to the worldwide chaos it causes today. His research takes him from the arcane reaches of the British Library to the isolation cells of America’s most secure prisons; from the crackhouses of New York to the jungles of Bolivia and Colombia. Having read and thoroughly enjoyed Streatfeild’s latest book A History Of The World Since 9/11, I did a bit of web browsing and bought his two earlier books; Brainwash - A Secret History Of Mind Control and Cocaine. Brainwash was summarily read and whilst interesting didn’t rock me in the same way as 9/11 did. Cocaine, when it arrived in hardback the size of a house brick was started then put away. With a steely resolve to finish this after Christmas, I got back into it. Streatfeild has undertaken a mammoth amount of research both into the origins of the drug its initial rise and fall in the late 19th century when Freud and others became aware of some of its abilities, and its resurgence in the late 70’s up to 2000. (This book was published back in 2003, so doesn’t cover the last 10 years of the continuing saga.) I found the early part of the evolution of cocaine instructive, but ultimately a lot less interesting than the last 30-odd years of the 20th century. Cocaine’s resurgence into US cities in the 70’s and 80’s and the reaction from the Reagan and subsequent administrations, I found a lot more relevant. Streatfeild has interviews with LA crack-king, Ricky Ross and Colombian cartel members, along with various DEA agents and lowly growers in the South American jungles. He provides sharp analysis of the ongoing “war on drugs” waged by the US administration. A war that is ultimately unwinnable, unless there is a radical change of strategy and some forward thinking. Political suicide for any politician to countenance, but is legalisation a better route to travel? I wouldn’t necessarily advocate it, but it would be worth having a reasoned, non-hysterical debate in regards to it. Remove the profit potential from the equation. For the traffickers and dealers then it becomes a less lucrative market to get involved in. Spend some of the money currently used to combat the trade in assistance for the small growers in South America, providing alternative crops with sustainable value in the market place. Reduce spending on housing over 500,000 people in the prison population, the result of tougher laws which have criminalised lower level street dealers and users, and put the money to better use. Okay - a bit simplistic, but is it a worse alternative to the current status quo? It won’t happen though. Too much money to be made from prolonging the fight, too many corrupt officials, both in law enforcement and government in Mexico and South America for anyone to want to try an alternative method of combating an issue that isn’t going away anytime soon. The book may be 10 years old and a bit behind the current situation, but Streatfeild has opened my eyes to this phoney war. Educational, instructive, thought provoking. 4 from 5 I picked this up this copy second-hand on E-bay. http://col2910.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01...

  13. 4 out of 5

    Timothy Riley

    An incredibly well researched and hilarious book, in a way only a Brit could write about such a serious topic. Filled with self deprecating humour and total unease with himself, Dominic Streatfeild courageously interviews some famously "bad" dudes. What is the most striking is that they do just seem like regular guys who saw a way to make an insane amount of money all while succumbing to megalomania. Obviously we all know that the Coca leaves have been chewed for thousands of years for a pick me An incredibly well researched and hilarious book, in a way only a Brit could write about such a serious topic. Filled with self deprecating humour and total unease with himself, Dominic Streatfeild courageously interviews some famously "bad" dudes. What is the most striking is that they do just seem like regular guys who saw a way to make an insane amount of money all while succumbing to megalomania. Obviously we all know that the Coca leaves have been chewed for thousands of years for a pick me up-like a double espresso. I didn't know the complex chemistry-you must add an alkali such as lime to extract the alkaline-much the way I believe baking soda is used to make crack. But once Europeans discovered this "drug" they saw a way to exploitation. Starting with Spanish who enslaved millions over the course of several centuries in mining pits-most of whom didn't survive one year. They kept the indigenous working hard by giving them lots of coca and became the largest drug dealer on the continent by planting more potent forms of the plant on giant Spanish run plantations. Much the way the English helped the Asians get hooked on Opium and then became the only cartel to supply it. Being the ultra capitalists that they are, the Brits found a way to outproduce the south americans-Bolivia was making a decent amount of money from coca-by growing it in their other colonies after acquiring some cuttings, same with quninine and rubber. The Americans would later become just as evil. There is too much to go into further here but the connection with Freud and several other famous people is explained as well as a giant German pharmaceutical company's role (only two in the world for much for much of the time with the other in Detroit). Then we get to the fun stuff of 19th and 20th century cocaine with the story of Coca Cola taking center stage with all the other elixirs. It still uses the coca leaf as a flavouring without the alkali transforming it to cocaine. There is also a nice chapter on the role people thought cocaine could play in weaning morphine addicts off opiates. (Freud had a big role to play) After falling into disfavour in the states, the US decided to fight its first war on drugs by popularizing the myth that cocaine is so dangerous it makes white women sleep with black men and makes black men uncontrollable. This struck a cord specifically in the south right in the middle of the period of frequent lynchings and post reconstruction-pre world war one. The imprisonment of an insane proportion of the country followed. The most interesting part of the cocaine story is how the US created its own drug problem. It involved anticommunist cubans who fled from castro into the arms of the US government. They got free military training-known as Brigade 2506. Almost all of the cocaine coming into the country in the 60's and 70's was brought by the cubans, most of the smugglers were Bay of Pigs operatives (70%). They were of course also implicated in the Iran contra deal, which the CIA and military at the very least turned a blind eye to gigantic shipments of cocaine coming into US military bases on US military planes-then sold to wholesale dealers in L.A. who figured out how to turn it into crack. The rest of the story is well known with columbian cartels being fought by the US DEA-with almost all the cocaine still making it into the country and with the US refusing to deal with the demand problem at home. They always found it easier to dump harmful exfoliants, anti-coca plant diseases on poor, small scale coca farmers who literally can't make money planting anything else.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    Dominic Streatfeild does a masterful job of tying together several thousand years of history into 500 pages. This was an ambitious (and dangerous) project, and along every step of the way, you feel as if you're walking alongside him. It's a fascinating book, and a cautionary tale about the dangerous road we're heading down. A must-read. Throughout, Streatfeild writes with a wit and rhythm that defied my expectations. 500 pages about a single drug is a lot, and when 150 pages doesn't even touch t Dominic Streatfeild does a masterful job of tying together several thousand years of history into 500 pages. This was an ambitious (and dangerous) project, and along every step of the way, you feel as if you're walking alongside him. It's a fascinating book, and a cautionary tale about the dangerous road we're heading down. A must-read. Throughout, Streatfeild writes with a wit and rhythm that defied my expectations. 500 pages about a single drug is a lot, and when 150 pages doesn't even touch the modern era, you might expect to be bored. Yet he manages to make everything so damn interesting, you might think you've been dosed. The first couple hundred pages is nothing but what you might consider "back story": a history of the coca leaf, its use in the mountainous regions of South America, the perceptions of coca during colonization, all the way through its emergence as a "wonder drug" in the early 20th century. (And for anyone who wants to know just how crazy this stuff made Sigmund Freud, there are a couple chapters devoted to that.) I found one of the most engrossing sections was on early attempts at cocaine prohibition. The drug crusaders were an odd bunch (saccharin was their next target after cocaine) with dubious ethics and a complete inability to understand the basic science behind the drugs they railed against. It's an interesting parallel to how our modern drug policies get made. The latter half of the book is where Streatfeild's prowess as an investigative journalist comes to the fore. He digs deep into the modern history of cocaine smuggling, unearthing records and uncovering the connections that turned cocaine into America's super-drug. Anyone who's seen Blow might find the section about George Jung and Carlos Lehder repetitive, but even there I found the author breathed new life into the story. Beyond George Jung, there is the sordid history of macroeconomic competition between different countries (Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, the Bahamas, Mexico) for supremacy in supplying illicit cocaine to the US. This turns into a violent, almost inhuman narrative on government corruption, organized crime, and savage reprisals. And Streatfeild is there: he smuggles himself into rebel territory in Colombia, visits a coca market in Bolivia, traipses around in the rainforest interviewing coca farmers, the whole time without insurance. In the end, Cocaine turns into a sad humanitarian tale. Streatfeild interviews, sometimes at significant peril, the rural coca farmers who ultimately pay the price of our anti-drug enforcement efforts. He digs into America's involvement in passing draconian "guilty-until-proven-innocent" laws in Colombia, examines the economics of growing coca versus any other crop, and visits farmers whose fields were destroyed by a genetically-engineered fungus that was dropped from a US crop-dusting plane. It's heart-breaking to hear how many indigent farmers are snapped up by drug enforcement, while the traffickers continue to make money. I won't keep going; if you're not interested by now, this book isn't for you. But if you've read up to here, you're probably as interested as I was in learning how our country got itself so messed up with this drug. It's all in here. From start to finish, Dominic Streatfeild finds a way to extract history and data that nobody else seems to have (or wants to talk about), and ties it all together with style and common sense. Go get it now.

  15. 4 out of 5

    L

    Unlike other authors who have tackled the subject of illicit drugs, Dominic Streatfield lays no subtitled spin on his subject. His approach mirrors traditional biographies, thick profiles of historical figures or movements or ideas. In Cocaine: An Unauthorized Biography, we simply learn about where cocaine came from, the people who discovered it, the people who converted it from coca leaves into powder and then (much later) smokable rocks, and the people who use it, sell it, sell it big time, an Unlike other authors who have tackled the subject of illicit drugs, Dominic Streatfield lays no subtitled spin on his subject. His approach mirrors traditional biographies, thick profiles of historical figures or movements or ideas. In Cocaine: An Unauthorized Biography, we simply learn about where cocaine came from, the people who discovered it, the people who converted it from coca leaves into powder and then (much later) smokable rocks, and the people who use it, sell it, sell it big time, and die because of it - either the violence surrounding its international trade or the addictive effects of the substance itself. Streatfield works hard to collect these stories, traveling to Columbia and Austria, conducting extensive conversations with experts in the field, who speak from university research labs, city streets and prison cells. "Of all the interviewees I contacted in the course of researching this book - including a Nobel Laaureate and a number of extremely serious scientists - Ross came across as the brightest. By far," Streatfield says of the man credited with inventing Ready Rock, later known as "crack." He proceeds to tell us the story of how Ricky Ross grew up, his early forays into crime, and the events during and after his attempt to get a college education. It's obvious Streatfield, who pops in and out of each scene and segway as a first-person narrator chasing the story, thinks this story is unfortunate. It's also obvious that he thinks it's fascinating, and his enthusiasm and curiosity create a readable and thorough account of the drug's role throughout history. To anyone who reads the news and endeavors to know what lies way back behind major forces shaping the substance and face of crime in America today, cocaine deserves this biography. Streatfield explains how cocaine evolved into role it plays now: from the tradition of chewing coca leaves in South and Central America; to Freud and his colleagues' risky and feverish experimentation with medical uses for the drug; to the elusive and extravagant kingpins of the 1970s and 1980s; to the modern American law enforcement war against the powder and Mr. Ross's rock, the one that will keep him in prison for the rest of his life. However terrible the consequences of his creation, I am grateful to Streatfield for giving Ross a voice. Though "unauthorized," the book treats cocaine and the people who shaped its history quite fairly. The author's attention to detail and thoroughness bring the experience of reading it to a place both compelling and educational, and satisfy every curiosity a reader could develop about the subject. He doesn't skimp on the way the drug feels, why it holds addictive and remunerative appeal, and its widespread commercial and medical use before it became cast as a vice. And I'm quite glad to know, once and for all, what cocaine has to do with my favorite hometown cola.

  16. 5 out of 5

    M.L. Rio

    Streatfeild might be the perfect person to tell you all about cocaine, because at the outset of writing this book he knew as much about it as the average Westerner: i. e., not much. That might sound like a bad thing but it actually isn't, because Streatfeild goes into the history, culture, and economics of cocaine with no preconceived notions. He talks to everyone from Colombian politicians to DEA agents to Freud experts to Marxist guerrillas to world-famous most-wanted traffickers, and he does Streatfeild might be the perfect person to tell you all about cocaine, because at the outset of writing this book he knew as much about it as the average Westerner: i. e., not much. That might sound like a bad thing but it actually isn't, because Streatfeild goes into the history, culture, and economics of cocaine with no preconceived notions. He talks to everyone from Colombian politicians to DEA agents to Freud experts to Marxist guerrillas to world-famous most-wanted traffickers, and he does it all with good humor and a healthy suspicion of everyone's story. The surprisingly entertaining account starts to drag around three hundred pages, but just when you think you can't take any more minutiae about the agricultural dynamics of the Bolivian hinterland, the pace picks up again with a visit to the infamous Ochoa brothers. All in all, an informative and largely unbiased account of one of the biggest, baddest industries in the world.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    microhistories are great ways to look at the world. they're kind of like the historical equivalent of taking a biopsy - choose an angle of incision, cut a paper-thin slice, and look at it under a microscope. not always helpful in understanding what's going on in the body as a whole, but if you choose the right angle it can be and regardless it's a trip to look at. as an enthusiastic drug-taker who has always avoided blow for one reason or another, this looked like a fine book to check out. and in microhistories are great ways to look at the world. they're kind of like the historical equivalent of taking a biopsy - choose an angle of incision, cut a paper-thin slice, and look at it under a microscope. not always helpful in understanding what's going on in the body as a whole, but if you choose the right angle it can be and regardless it's a trip to look at. as an enthusiastic drug-taker who has always avoided blow for one reason or another, this looked like a fine book to check out. and in many ways it was - streatfeild chose a captivating subject even if you don't happen to be pharmacologically inclined, which does happen to provide insight into the world at large. plus, on the lowbrow tip, guns! and drugs! and colossal amounts of money! and international intrigue! et cetera. my problem with the book wasn't with the subject, or the treatment and conclusions (though they were pretty plainly biased since he does about everything except admit outright he does blow semiregularly.) it was with the research methods. in the first half of the book, he goes to some pains to point out that he read as many sources as he could find on the subject, and then picked one out as definitive, complained a bit about how boring it was (and accused the author of being on coke when he was writing it), and then cribbed most of his info from it. getting into modern times and investigative reporting, his strategy seemed to be to take a halfhearted stab at finding out wnat was up, go with his preconcieved notions, and call it a day. (e.g. failing to buy semilegal drugs from a pharmacy in nogales and blaming this on finding the one honest pharmacist in town, instead of trying again somewhere else with a slightly more convincing cover story.) my gut instinct is that most of the info in the book is correct. problem is, he relies on his gut instinct instead of sound research and reporting techniques, too.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Blanca

    The title's claim that this is an "unathorized" biography may seem audacious or precious, but it becomes quite clear that once cocaine was discovered from coca, cocaine took a life of it's own, as much as any historical figure propelling some of the most significant historical events and economic triggers in modern world history. It would be easy to assign Streatfield's claims and research as conspiracy theory writing, but his claims promote no agenda, defend nor villianize any of the players in The title's claim that this is an "unathorized" biography may seem audacious or precious, but it becomes quite clear that once cocaine was discovered from coca, cocaine took a life of it's own, as much as any historical figure propelling some of the most significant historical events and economic triggers in modern world history. It would be easy to assign Streatfield's claims and research as conspiracy theory writing, but his claims promote no agenda, defend nor villianize any of the players in the cocaine theater, so it really stands on brilliant and rare intimate information from the sources closest to all aspects of this drug. One thing is clear: drugs do not have a simple history and it's more embedded in the world's functionality than the reader could imagine. The biography relates the humble beginnings, the historical arc of evolution in the marketplace and prominence around the world. He achieves that connect-the-dots impact that Traffic illuminated years ago, taking care of approaching it with serious care, but still seeing a lightness that is never judgmental or depressing. Streatfield is at once charming, engaging and a brilliant analyst without being a prophet to either side of the drug war.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Vladimir

    This is a thorough treatment of cocaine, good for anybody who cares about fun, history, science, law, revolutions, media, ... The drug war is as close as I'll come to a litmus test of whether somebody is willing to engage in a substantive policy debate instead of sticking to a political orthodoxy. This book shows how dependent drug laws are on which groups are associated with drug use and drug control, and the social status of those groups. Since I wrote it out elsewhere, here's the skinny on mini This is a thorough treatment of cocaine, good for anybody who cares about fun, history, science, law, revolutions, media, ... The drug war is as close as I'll come to a litmus test of whether somebody is willing to engage in a substantive policy debate instead of sticking to a political orthodoxy. This book shows how dependent drug laws are on which groups are associated with drug use and drug control, and the social status of those groups. Since I wrote it out elsewhere, here's the skinny on mini discs: His attention wandered all the time. And yet, while he [Jorge Ochoa, major columbian drug lord] wasn't the easiest interviewee in the world, there was a certain ebullience to him that was hard not to find charming. At one point, when his wife said that she had a minidisc player just like the one I was using to record the interview, he commented that he had never heard conversation played through one. What was the sound quality like? We stopped recording, I passed over a pair of headphones and played Jorge our last conversation. The reaction was instantaneous: he burst into uproarious laughter at the sound of his own voice, beaming with delight like a child--'It's perfect!' he cried. 'Perfect!' p434

  20. 5 out of 5

    Badly Drawn Girl

    I've read a lot of books on the topic of drugs and about cocaine specifically. Dominic Streatfield takes an enormous amount of information and organizes it so well that what could be a dry book topic reads like a thriller. The story of cocaine is a convoluted one and it's tricky to just trace it's history much less delve into solutions. This book tackles it all, the history, the advancement of the drug, the various players involved in it's production or it's prosecution, it's effect on various c I've read a lot of books on the topic of drugs and about cocaine specifically. Dominic Streatfield takes an enormous amount of information and organizes it so well that what could be a dry book topic reads like a thriller. The story of cocaine is a convoluted one and it's tricky to just trace it's history much less delve into solutions. This book tackles it all, the history, the advancement of the drug, the various players involved in it's production or it's prosecution, it's effect on various countries, the way it's tied into politics and power. This should be read by all because it's relevant to us all. Especially in America, where we are throwing money at a problem that cannot be solved by money. We need to learn from history and make some different decisions. And while the story is often depressing, I was left with hope because there are people out there who are trying to make a difference, and there are ideas out there that have the potential to help make a dent in the problem.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne Mahony

    An indepth, objective, sometimes whimsical book accounting the history of cocaine in the context of different cultures, time periods, countries, classes, specific people, etc. Every three pages you seem to learn a new wild fact that you had never before heard. For example, Streatfeild claims at one point that the reason why Hitler and the Germans were late for D-Day was because Hitler had slept in, having taken sleeping pills the night before to counter-act his high from most like having taken c An indepth, objective, sometimes whimsical book accounting the history of cocaine in the context of different cultures, time periods, countries, classes, specific people, etc. Every three pages you seem to learn a new wild fact that you had never before heard. For example, Streatfeild claims at one point that the reason why Hitler and the Germans were late for D-Day was because Hitler had slept in, having taken sleeping pills the night before to counter-act his high from most like having taken cocaine or some other opiates the day before. (Basically, you learn that Hitler was a methamphetamine addict and most likely a cocaine addict too) You learn other crazy facts about Freud, Coca Cola, Hollywood, etc. It's amazing. And although it is objective, you finish the book never wanting to try cocaine, seeing as how the book delves into the physiological and neurological side effects.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Carter

    This book is a little heavy on the first-person, but it doesn't take long to realize why: The process of researching it had to be at least as fascinating (not to mention dangerous) as the actual story of cocaine. Streatfeild has some serious cojones, & he digs deep into every corner he can find -- from documenting Coca Cola's surprisingly twisted role in the drug wars to interviewing teenage narco-assassins deep in the Colombian jungle. He's the perfect narrator of this story, if only because he This book is a little heavy on the first-person, but it doesn't take long to realize why: The process of researching it had to be at least as fascinating (not to mention dangerous) as the actual story of cocaine. Streatfeild has some serious cojones, & he digs deep into every corner he can find -- from documenting Coca Cola's surprisingly twisted role in the drug wars to interviewing teenage narco-assassins deep in the Colombian jungle. He's the perfect narrator of this story, if only because he's able to relate the drug wars & the history of coca from a relatively unbiased point of view: He doesn't use the stuff, & he recognizes the serious damage it tends to do, but he also recognizes the massive damage done by the typical knee-jerk, chest-thumping, tough-on-crime American way of trying to deal with it.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Zack

    beware of the poppy history book. they will suck you in. there wasn't really much wrong with this book. the writer was great at being entertaining and it was well researched. and i agreed with 99% of what he was saying politically. it was cool to see such a poppy book seem to be in favor of cocaine legalization while acknowledging how horrible it was for people. and i loved how the the writer inserted himself into the narrative. but it was really a bit of a waste for me to tread 500 pages into t beware of the poppy history book. they will suck you in. there wasn't really much wrong with this book. the writer was great at being entertaining and it was well researched. and i agreed with 99% of what he was saying politically. it was cool to see such a poppy book seem to be in favor of cocaine legalization while acknowledging how horrible it was for people. and i loved how the the writer inserted himself into the narrative. but it was really a bit of a waste for me to tread 500 pages into this territory. oakland has a lot of crack addicts and i kind of wanted to get a bit of context to that whole situation...but a few articles would have done the trick. i really don't need to know like 30 pages worth of info about freud's cocaine addiction...yet i was like 300 pages in and i had to finish it. o well.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Broodingferret

    This was a fun book. I've found that I have a fondness for 'commodity history', which I suppose shouldn't surprise me, given my interest in trivia. Still, these kinds of books risk being ponderous, but thankfully that wasn't the case here. Streatfeild has a charming dry wit that he applies skillfully to his treatment of the topic, sprinkling it in just the right measures and in just the right places to make his narrative engrossing, while also avoiding making light of the heavier aspects of coca This was a fun book. I've found that I have a fondness for 'commodity history', which I suppose shouldn't surprise me, given my interest in trivia. Still, these kinds of books risk being ponderous, but thankfully that wasn't the case here. Streatfeild has a charming dry wit that he applies skillfully to his treatment of the topic, sprinkling it in just the right measures and in just the right places to make his narrative engrossing, while also avoiding making light of the heavier aspects of cocaine's story (like murder and rampant South American poverty among coca growers). Much of the more recent history covered near the end is obviously dated, as the book was published in the early 2000s, but that doesn't detract from the book's informative value, as Streatfeild is a thorough reporter who has researched the topic of cocaine exhaustively. Definitely a rewarding read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Chuck Ekemezuma

    Loved the book. Takes you back to the earlier discovery of the plant in South America amongst the Inca tribes and their daily consumption of the plant for stamina as they worked in the mines for days without food. Once it's properties had been discovered by the European slave holders, it wasn't long before it become the hottest property on earth. A famous philosopher experimented with, it was known for it's recreational use amongst the rich and wealthy and was once an ingrediant in a very very f Loved the book. Takes you back to the earlier discovery of the plant in South America amongst the Inca tribes and their daily consumption of the plant for stamina as they worked in the mines for days without food. Once it's properties had been discovered by the European slave holders, it wasn't long before it become the hottest property on earth. A famous philosopher experimented with, it was known for it's recreational use amongst the rich and wealthy and was once an ingrediant in a very very famous drink who's manufacturer in my opinion is proberbly the biggest importer of the drug, but with so many benefitting from it's sale, is allowed to get away scot free. A must read for anyone interested in factual information. Well researched.

  26. 4 out of 5

    JC

    Who new Reading about cocaine could be Almost as interesting as doing it(er, uh... so I've heard)? Anyway all(loooong time ago)experimentation aside, I really enjoyed reading this book. Like most books about one topic, it drags and gets long-winded at times but it has tons(or kilos?)of fun informational nuggets. Everything from Freud's assistant discovering it's use an anaesthetic to how ancient civilizations first discovered La Coca and used it to be more productive. What I really dug was how it Who new Reading about cocaine could be Almost as interesting as doing it(er, uh... so I've heard)? Anyway all(loooong time ago)experimentation aside, I really enjoyed reading this book. Like most books about one topic, it drags and gets long-winded at times but it has tons(or kilos?)of fun informational nuggets. Everything from Freud's assistant discovering it's use an anaesthetic to how ancient civilizations first discovered La Coca and used it to be more productive. What I really dug was how it interweaved nicely with other historical type books I've read. Especially Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel" All in all I would have to say "Cocaine" rocks. Haha.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Claudia

    Fascinating! This book thrilled me from beginning to end. Warning, if you carry this book in public, people will make stupid coke jokes. So if you like walking around unnoticed (like me) hide the cover as best you can. In my innocence, I never knew the intertwined relationships of politics, drugs, money, and government. Which confirms for me that the war on drugs in america is too profitable to cease, and the persecution of drug users so institutionalization that we wouldn't know what to do with Fascinating! This book thrilled me from beginning to end. Warning, if you carry this book in public, people will make stupid coke jokes. So if you like walking around unnoticed (like me) hide the cover as best you can. In my innocence, I never knew the intertwined relationships of politics, drugs, money, and government. Which confirms for me that the war on drugs in america is too profitable to cease, and the persecution of drug users so institutionalization that we wouldn't know what to do without it. I felt it was well researched and very informative, and segwayed well into the different subjects and how they realted to form the whole picture.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Stefanie Wess

    this is pretty good. i knew vaguely how many people died in relation to cocaine (by that i mean how many people died because of genocidal americans/europeans) but now i know the details. i also know that, in tests to see how much effort rats will make to get coke vs. heroin, heroin rats (who were living as normally as one does when one is in a cage while on heroin) just gave up trying to get the heroin after a bit, whereas cocaine rats (who had stopped sleeping, eating, and fucking) were all dea this is pretty good. i knew vaguely how many people died in relation to cocaine (by that i mean how many people died because of genocidal americans/europeans) but now i know the details. i also know that, in tests to see how much effort rats will make to get coke vs. heroin, heroin rats (who were living as normally as one does when one is in a cage while on heroin) just gave up trying to get the heroin after a bit, whereas cocaine rats (who had stopped sleeping, eating, and fucking) were all dead in a few weeks. this book makes me feel really disgusted, and it's an informative and interesting read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Elaine

    I read this book for a college psych class about drugs and was NOT looking forward to it, since the class was basically hell on earth. However, I was pleasantly surprised at Streatfield's in depth and interesting work about the history and societal impact of cocaine. I thought the last third of the book dragged a little bit (but I also had a lot else going on) but I actually got through it pretty quickly because it was so interesting and very well put together. I'd recommend this book for anyone I read this book for a college psych class about drugs and was NOT looking forward to it, since the class was basically hell on earth. However, I was pleasantly surprised at Streatfield's in depth and interesting work about the history and societal impact of cocaine. I thought the last third of the book dragged a little bit (but I also had a lot else going on) but I actually got through it pretty quickly because it was so interesting and very well put together. I'd recommend this book for anyone who is remotely interested in how addiction works.

  30. 4 out of 5

    B...

    One of my all time favorites. Whether you read it for information or simply enjoyment, there's plenty here to satisfy. Streatfield's writing style is straightforward enough to make the book an easy read, and colloquial enough to make it unique and entertaining. Good conversation material, here, and a fun book to lend out, due to its' propensity to quickly draw in the skeptical peruser and quickly have them devouring chapter after chapter - not unlike that certain substance upon which the book is One of my all time favorites. Whether you read it for information or simply enjoyment, there's plenty here to satisfy. Streatfield's writing style is straightforward enough to make the book an easy read, and colloquial enough to make it unique and entertaining. Good conversation material, here, and a fun book to lend out, due to its' propensity to quickly draw in the skeptical peruser and quickly have them devouring chapter after chapter - not unlike that certain substance upon which the book is based, no?

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.