America’s opioids epidemic started innocently, with the Peace and Love generation and the Hippocratic oath: the doctor’s mission to do no harm. Both have resulted in a worldwide problem that does great harm. Today I review a book about an important part of that history.
Stephen Bentley, a former British police officer and undercover agent, reveals the untold true story of his volunteer undercover assignment in Wales in the early 1970s, In Undercover: Operation Julie, The Inside Story, he is assigned as an undercover agent to infiltrate the LSD and opioids supply trade in Wales and bring down the operation. Set in a rural community which had become the British refuge of the Peace and Love movement of the 1960s, the tale unveils the flower children and their drug culture as unknowing victims of an increasing web of greed, intrigue and international drug smuggling.
Sympathetically told, the story shows how human nature can sometimes prevail over the criminal justice system and the profit motive, when friendship, loyalty and human decency are involved. While Operation Julie nets the biggest drug bust in the world as of its 1972 date, Bentley’s story documents the human cost and missed opportunities to prevent even greater crimes — including the cocaine and heroin trade — through bureaucratic inattention, institutional rigidity and lack of compassion for the people involved. The author’s satisfaction at successfully apprehending the criminals and uncovering even greater crimes is dimmed by the absence of official recognition for superior teamwork, courageous risk-taking and savvy police work, and government failure to continue and expand the program. He laments that British officialdom failed to recognize the brilliant and successful drug interdiction system which the team had evolved, refused to retain the team itself after the original assignment was over, thus missing a chance to expand it to nationwide scale.
These failures, plus the author’s sense that he has betrayed true friends in making the drug busts, leaves the reader with the haunting realization that human loyalty, friendship and tribal bonding are far more important than achieving shallow political goals, celebrating a few wins in the the public spotlight and punishing some minor offenders.
A minor drawback is that the book’s thematic comments could have had more impact if incorporated along the way, as the suspenseful drama unfolds, rather than devoting several chapters after the action is complete to interpret and present arguments on the upon meaning and future significance of Operation Julie.For anyone who wants to understand what lay beneath the apparent innocence of the Peace and Love movement of the 1960s and early 70s, this book is a compelling and fascinating read.
In Fatal Designs, my second Patrick MacKenna mystery, I explore more recent developments in the U. S. I asked the question, what if drug traders crossed paths with innocent, educated, well brought up teens. like your own daughter or ones you might know. When Patrick’s daughter Erin, on a camping trip in the Ozarks, is kidnapped with a companion by ruthless drug dealers and human traffickers, both she and her amateur sleuth father face the challenge of their lives.
What do you think about these issues? Do you feel threatened by opioids in our society, whether from greedy dealers off opioids or their counterpart in the profit-oriented corporate drug manufacturing firms? Please leave a comment and let us know.
Until next time, good words to you!