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Snowblind by Robert Sabbag

Snowblind by Robert Sabbag

This is not a new book. First published in 1976, it documents the drug dealing career of Zachary Swan, who became an overnight hero in American smuggling circles. I have the UK Canongate paperback from 2010, with a foreword by the inimitable Howard Marks.

Snowblind is an eye-opener for anyone interested in what makes the global illegal narcotics industry tick. Some of the smugglers and dealers will surprise you: many are independently wealthy trust-fund kids looking for the kind of kick that the boardroom can never provide. There are genuine characters here, to such an extent that many fiction writers owe their careers to the inspiration of the entirely real Zachary Swan.

As with all the best non-fiction, Snowblind is still relevant today, as the USA starts to legalize cannabis. (Somewhat amazingly to those in the UK and Europe who consider that country to be behind the curve with its dated views on everything from guns to religion, and healthcare.) Snowblind focuses primarily on the cocaine trade, but its insights encompass every kind of dubious pleasure that seems drawn to coke. There are women, international gangsters, shootings, busts by law enforcement, pensioners acting as drugs mules, and lots more besides.

Snowblind is strongly recommended. It charts the story of how we got to where we are, how cocaine became the focus drug for US law enforcement on little more than a political whim. And it is the story of how a subculture anti-hero got busted, so simply and easily that many believe he wanted to get caught. Sometimes prison is just easier than the constant grind of shifting vast quantities of drugs.

City of Glass by Paul Auster

City of Glass by Paul Auster

Mr & Mrs Disraeli by Daisy Hay