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The Fruit Palace

By (author) Charles Nicholl
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Cornerstone, London, United Kingdom
Imprint: William Heinemann Ltd
Published: 27th Aug 1985
Dimensions: w 140mm h 220mm
ISBN-10: 043451084X
ISBN-13: 9780434510849
Barcode No: 9780434510849

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Kirkus UK
This is a new edition of a book dating from the early 1970s, but it has stood the test of time: while the cocaine scene in Colombia may have changed, the excitement and fascination conjured up by Nicholl's string of first-hand accounts of his travels in South America have lost none of their flavour. Nicholl is 23, a self-proclaimed 'goggle eyed', calculating but charming American drug dealer. The book is packed full of idiosyncratic characters, from the 'half-crazed Scottish newspaper man Augustus McGregor' to the best drug-runner in the business 'who had walked cocaine through the US customs 43 times and never got caught'. Nicholl aims to emulate Beckett in presenting a bit of 'bottled climate' in his captivating account. The best dreams are those you wish would carry on forever, and this book is one which will keep any armchair traveller transfixed. (Kirkus UK)
Kirkus US
In the early 1970's, Nicholl finds himself in the hot, seedy port city of Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. Renting a hammock for 10 pesos a night and downing the jugos made from the exotic local fruits, Nicholl is not above sampling the assortment of drugs that makes its way into South America's premier drug-smuggling capital. Twelve years later, back in England, Nicholl's publisher decides he's just the man to write the inside story on Colombia's cocaine trade - now a subject of worldwide interest. Nicholl knows the language, the country, the drug, and enough shady characters to give him a foothold in beginning his investigations. After touching down in Bogota, Nicholl tracks down an old acquaintance, an ex-journalist whom he finds holed up in a slum of the city - a large chunk of his leg having been carved out by drug dealers. Among other things, they wanted to permanently quash his interest in their operations and, more specifically, in a new supply of cocaine finding its way onto the Bogota market - the mysterious Snow White. Nicholl picks up the torch from his friend and shortly finds himself taking risks that far exceed his courage - and The Fruit Palace is off and running. As the cast of characters broadens, we meet the mules, the women who transport hundreds of pounds of drugs under the noses of US Customs officials; the cooks, who reduce the coca leaves into the sparkling white powder; the dealers; the users; the smugglers; and even the businessmen who earn millions off their illicit trade. But through it all, Nicholl never loses sight of the fact that his primary character is Colombia herself. Nicholl circles the country searching out, and occasionally running from, his story. And with him we travel down the muddy rivers of the Choco, climb into pristine mountain villages, swim in the clear waters of the Caribbean and frolic amidst the corruption and seamy glitter of the big cities. Nicholl is a very good writer, and he brings to life the people and places of this troubled country. The book is travel writing at its best, and Nicholl's investigations into the drug trade (although at times stretching the credulity of the reader) lend the book a comedy and tension that give it the taste and pleasure of fiction. (Kirkus Reviews)