From the author of the acclaimed Can't Find My Way Home comes the gripping story of the rise of early drug culture in America.
With an intricate storyline that unites engaging characters and themes and reads like a novel, Bop Apocalypse details the rise of early drug culture in America by weaving together the disparate elements that formed this new and revolutionary segment of the American social fabric.
Drawing upon his rich decades of writing experience, master storyteller Martin Torgoff connects the birth of jazz in New Orleans, the first drug laws, Louis Armstrong, Mezz Mezzrow, Harry Anslinger and the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, swing, Lester Young, Billie Holiday, the Savoy Ballroom, Reefer Madness, Charlie Parker, the birth of bebop, the rise of the Beat Generation, and the coming of heroin to Harlem. Aficionados of jazz, the Beats, counterculture, and drug history will all find much to enjoy here, with a cast of characters that includes vivid and memorable depictions of Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Jackie McLean, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Herbert Huncke, Terry Southern, and countless others.
Bop Apocalypse is also a living history that teaches us much about the conflicts and questions surrounding drugs today, casting many contemporary issues in a new light by connecting them back to the events of this transformative era. At a time when marijuana legalization is rapidly becoming a reality, it takes us back to the advent of marijuana prohibition, when the templates of modern drug law, policy, and culture were first established, along with the concomitant racial stereotypes. As a new opioid epidemic sweeps through white working- and middle-class communities, it brings us back to when heroin first arrived on the streets of Harlem in the 1940s. And as we debate and grapple with the gross racial disparities of mass incarceration, it puts into sharp and provocative focus the racism at the very roots of our drug war.
Having spent a lifetime at the nexus of drugs and music, Torgoff reveals material never before disclosed and offers new insights, crafting and contextualizing Bop Apocalypse into a truly novel contribution to our understanding of jazz, race, literature, drug culture, and American social and cultural history.
Martin’s interview with Martin Torgoff was originally recorded March 7, 2017.