Editorial: St. Martin´s Griffin.
The up-your-nose, in-your-face life of George Jung, the high-school football star from small-town USA who became the American linchpin of the Colombian cocaine connection. Relying on extensive interviews with Jung and other key figures, Porter (Journalism/Brooklyn College) recounts a sleigh- ride-to-hell story of how 60’s hippie innocence turned into 80’s megadepravity. Porter dwells too long on Jung’s unexceptional childhood (poor grades, risk-taking, shaky family life) but picks up steam when his subject comes of age–as a likable, handsome, well-muscled hedonist–and takes off for California and a haze of sunbathing, sex, pot, and LSD. Soon enough, Jung becomes chief marijuana importer to a number of prestigious East Coast colleges. Likening himself to Butch Cassidy, he moves his operation to Mexico and makes a mint until a series of busts stops him–temporarily. In prison, Jung befriends a young Carlos Lehder and links up with the Medell¡n coke cartel. The money bandied about is staggering: The Colombian suppliers gross $35 billion a year, and Jung buys a house just to stash his cash (lining floors and walls with $100 bills): “Money, Learjets, fast cars, wild women, houses with maids,” is how he recalls it later. Inevitably, the roller-coaster hits the steep downward slope: paranoia, as Jung snorts mountains of coke; a heart attack in his mid-30s; a car-bomb attack by Lehder, by now a business enemy; scary trips to Colombia, during one of which Jung watched coke czar Pablo Escobar execute a police informer; a flurry of arrests and escapes; finally, the Big Bust. But, as always, Jung comes out unscathed, turning state’s witness (with Escobar’s approval) to sing against Lehder. Set scot-free in exchange for his testimony, Jung now works in a legit delivery service, transporting fish up and down Cape Cod. How a happy hippie blew it on blow–finely researched, told with pizzazz.
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