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William Irish
Dell, 1941 (pocket paperback, 64 pages) [FICTION] [PULP] [CONSCIOUSNESS]

As with most of the material William Irish (aka Cornell Woolrich) wrote in his career as a crime novelist (Night Has a Thousand Eyes, The Bride Wore Black, etc.), the backdrop of Marihuana is as fictional and un-authentic as its characters. The plot of this novelette--one of a series of saddle-stitched 10-cent Dell booklets "too short for popular reprint at a higher price"--is simple: chronically-depressed loser King Turner is introduced to the evil weed by some ne'er-do-well pals, hallucinates that he has killed someone (I wish the dope I got was that good), gets hold of a Luger and goes on a "hopped-up" killing spree. If only he had just said no.

The science-fictional details of the drug culture Irish dreams up are interesting. The smoking occurs at a "weed ranch"--a sort of speakeasy with a pay-one-price admission fee and all the reefer you can inhale (again, I wish my neighborhood was so equipped). Apparently working with limited data on the actual effects of marijuana (otherwise the story would never have been written), Irish emphasizes that it distorts "the time sense" (a key factor in the plot's apex) and makes sneering reference to the munchies ("The hempseeds [sic] create a false, insatiable appetite..."). Mary Jane also makes her men trigger-happy, as Turner maniacally pops caps in the ass of anyone who crosses his path--he just can't help himself. Written well after the unpopular LaGuardia Commission's report on how marijuana really wasn't any more harmful to society (and indeed considerably less pernicious) than alcohol, this little exercise in reefer madness is further proof that cultural attitudes-! -not empirical evidence--are what drives our current herbal prohibition.

P.S. While I was reading this fine literature I happened to be walking around in the East Village where what should I see in some St. Mark's boutique but a 100% cotton t-shirt silkscreened with the arresting cover art. Synchronicity, baby. --K.S.

(review date: 5/17/97)

OP from Dell

last update 7/30/97
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