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Opium: A History

(1996)
A non fiction book by

 
With personages from Khun Sa to Coleridge to Kurt Cobain populating its far-ranging pages, Opium: A History provides a comprehensive look at the drug as it's been used, abused, fought over, and profited from throughout the millennia. In all likelihood, one of the first medicinal drugs known to mankind, opium and its derivatives have eased and caused suffering in almost equal measure, a fact that the evenhanded Booth takes pains to point out. In fact, he quotes rock musician Frank Zappa with approbation: "A drug is neither moral nor immoral--it's a chemical compound. The compound itself is not a menace to society until a human being treats it as if consumption bestowed a temporary license to act like an asshole." Booth's book traces opium's history from the first evidence of poppy cultivation (possibly as early as 4,000 B.C.) to the drug wars of today, exploring its uses in different cultures, its roles in British and Chinese political affairs, its use by artists and musicians, and its horrifying ramifications for addicts.

Booth writes with admirable attention to detail, if very little élan. Plowing through some of his sentences is a little like chewing on a mouthful of sawdust: "There are several reasons suggested for the popularity of the hypodermic but the primary one is the lowering standard of heroin purity caused by the success of legislation on production and by the selling methods employed by Italians who took over distribution from Jewish gangs, leading to an increase in price and higher levels of adulteration." It's enough to drive a reader to drugs. Nonetheless, the power of his narrative can't be entirely erased by the unwieldiness of his prose. The book is filled with striking images and surprising facts--for instance, opium-addicted Victorian children, fed "soothing syrups" by minders to keep them quiet. Undernourished, yellow-skinned, in the words of one contemporary observer, they "shrank up into little old men or wizened like a little monkey." In the end, Booth finds few answers to the problems posed by the opium trade--a scourge he says has "destroyed millions of lives, enslaved whole cultures and invidiously corrupted human society to its very core." In writing this exhaustively researched history, however, Booth brings us that much closer to understanding--and thereby conquering--the most tenacious of human addictions. --Mary Park

 
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Used availability for Martin Booth's Opium: A History


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Hardback Editions

June 1999 : USA Hardback
Title: Opium: A History
Author(s): Martin Booth
ISBN: 1-4177-0674-0 / 978-1-4177-0674-7 (USA edition)
Publisher: San Val
Availability: Amazon UK   

July 1998 : USA Hardback
Title: Opium: A History
Author(s): Martin Booth
ISBN: 0-312-18643-6 / 978-0-312-18643-2 (USA edition)
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   

June 1996 : USA Hardback
Title: Opium
Author(s): Martin Booth
ISBN: 0-671-71357-4 / 978-0-671-71357-7 (USA edition)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd
Availability: Amazon UK   

June 1996 : USA Hardback
Title: Opium a History
Author(s): Martin Booth
ISBN: 0-684-81686-5 / 978-0-684-81686-9 (USA edition)
Publisher: Simon Schuster Trade
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   

Paperback Editions

June 1999 : USA Paperback
Title: Opium: A History
Author(s): Martin Booth
ISBN: 0-312-20667-4 / 978-0-312-20667-3 (USA edition)
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   

May 1997 : USA Paperback
Title: Opium: A History
Author(s): Martin Booth
ISBN: 0-671-85306-6 / 978-0-671-85306-8 (USA edition)
Publisher: Pocket Books
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   

June 1996 : USA Paperback
Title: Opium
Author(s): Martin Booth
ISBN: 0-671-71358-2 / 978-0-671-71358-4 (USA edition)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd
Availability: Amazon UK   Amazon CA   

Kindle Editions

September 2013 : USA Kindle edition
Title: Opium: A History
Author(s): Martin Booth
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Availability: Amazon   



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