Charles Nicholl is on a quest for "The Great Cocaine Story." The time is the early eighties and the place...Colombia. The story actually begins twelve years earlier in the tiny, scruffy seaport town of Santa Marta, described by some as "a victim of its privileged geographic location." "The town had the feel of a tropical smugglers' den. It was a rakish, seedy, avaricious little place, but somehow exhilarating in the way it lived according to its own laws." The Fruit Palace, a dismal whitewashed cafÃ© that legally dispenses tropical fruit juices, has another purpose as the meeting place for a variety of black market activities and the place where Nicholl unwittingly begins his quest.
He returns to Colombia in 1983 "on assignment." His research is thorough, the risks he takes are serious, and characters he encounters--colorful, cranky and always looking older than their years--are so thoroughly fleshed out, you almost forget you're reading nonfiction. Nicholl survives dangerous encounters with powerful drug lords, fever, earthquake, solo treks through treacherous jungles--all to deliver this decadent and compelling journey through the cocaine underworld of Colombia.