IN&OUTTONIGHT REVIEWS 24 Tuesday, 28 July 2009 London Lite L ets start with a plain, undeni- able fact. the so-called war against drugs has not worked. In 1961 only four million Americans had tried an illegal drug. By 2003, 74 million had admitted to doing so. this despite the expenditure of -- and this is a conserva- tive estimate -- $500bn on anti-drug measures in America. In London, kids look up to drug dealers, with their flash cars and lashings of bling. this is a war that society is never going to win but its considered political suicide to even contemplate ditching the war, although tory leader David Cameron and former Mayor Ken Livingstone have at least suggested that there may be another approach worth trying -- the decriminali- sation of drugs. the third season of the acclaimed tV series the Wire tackled what author tom Feiling calls the elephant in the room of world politics -- the legalisation of, or even just the decriminalisation of, drugs. In the Wire, set in Baltimore, an embattled police chief, tired of the drug- related gang killings and the subsequent unstitching of the social fabric of the city, took desperate measures. In a derelict part of town he set up Hamsterdam, a restricted area in which dealers dealt and users used under the cautious eyes of policemen and drugs counsellors. Of course, the mayor found out and the area was shut down despite drug-related crime plummeting. Feiling, in this impassioned if slightly misleadingly titled book (this isnt so much a history of cocaine than a polemic in favour of a different approach to the drugs problem), presents some compelling arguments and statis- tics to support his view. He likens the current view of drugs with Americas Prohibition, between 1920 and 1933. Due to the involvement of organised crime in supplying illegal alcohol during this time, the murder rate in America rose to an unprecedented high of 9.7 people per 100,000. It would not hit this rate again until 1980 when the war on drugs was at its height. When Prohibition ended, not only did murder rates drop substantially but the numbers killed by alcohol poisoning fell too. Feiling argues that the drugs trade is not just devastating American and British inner cities but also countries such as Colombia and Jamaica that either grow coca leaves or act as a kind of warehouse. In 2001 Portugal decriminalised the personal possession of drugs (though it still punishes dealers). the results have been startling: drug use has fallen substantially and new HIV infections in drug users fell by 17 per cent. the numbers of drug users seeking help has also soared. Decriminalisation may or may not work here. But, as Feiling suggests, isnt it time we grew up and at least discussed the possibility? REVIEWSBOOKS Hightimefora drugs rethink Katiesfictionalworldistrue toherowntangledtabloidlife Snow man: Al Pacino as a ruthless drugs baron in Scarface FACeBOOK may be a fact of life, but how many of us know the stranger-than-fiction story behind it? the site was founded by Harvard undergraduate Mark Zuckerberg, who hacked into the universitys computer system to create a hot or not database of every girl on the campus. Unbelievably, 80 per cent of the student body voted in two hours, crashing the system. Along with best friend eduardo saverin, he relaunched the Facebook as a way for students to stay in touch -- and so it began. Mezrich, who has an enjoyably trashy style, paints the drama in lurid colour. to be fair, he has lots to play with: sex, booze -- there is even an anecdote about saverin feasting on koala on a yacht owned by a software squillionaire: the meat was illegal, but it would have been rude to turn the dish away. Unsurprisingly, the book has caused a sensation in the states: Facebook has damned Mezrich as the Jackie Collins of silicon Valley -- which will no doubt make it a bestseller. expect this short, thrill-packed story to go viral. AMBER COWAN JAMES PALUMBOS novel is set in a world dedicated to the worship of money and depravity of every hue and colour. Obviously, it couldnt be more timely. From founding Ministry of Sound, to his later career as a banker, Palumbo must have more than enough experience to write a whole shelf of books on this subject. In a world controlled by oligarchs, Tomas is surrounded by idiots. His misadventures lead from Cannes to Paris and back again, via the film festival and a job as reality TV anchor. For his creator, Tomas is a kind of visionary revealing grim truths (sex in his world is always a transaction) and Palumbos fans will also give him the sages tag. Theres one snag. For a monstrous 21st- century take on the idea that the rich are different you cant help feeling that a purely satirical novel isnt quite enough. I wish Palumbo would turn his hand to telling it like it really is. OLIVIA COLE IF YOU think about knife crime, you will know that it happens in a place called gangland. But what is gangland? In this book, John Heale goes there and tells us all about it. Gangland is a marginalised place, where people dont play by the normal rules of society. they dont because they cant. there would be no point. the cause? Racism, followed by drugs, followed by guns. Is the gang problem getting worse? asks Heale. I believe so. terrifying. WILLIAM LEITH One Blood ByJohnHeale (PocketBooks,7.99) Newpaperbacks CHICK-LIT Sapphire ByKatiePrice(Century,12.99) HHHII THE setting for this novel is provincial France, in the early part of the last century -- a bunch of dreadful snobs with elaborate hats and tea parties. Pierre, who is decent enough, is in love with Agnes. But he cant go near her, because her family is a social notch below his -- her mother had been forced to work for a living. But Pierre, who is already engaged, secretly arranges to meet Agnes in the woods -- and the consequences are terrible, in a very readable way. WL All Our Worldly Goods ByIreneNemirovsky (Vintage,7.99) MeG WOLItZeRs last novel, the Position, was a witty look at the fallout from the sexual revolution of the seventies, and this book is about the fallout from the two subsequent decades. Here, four high- flying women of the shoulder pads generation have kids and give up work for a decade. the big question they face is, should they go back? the hard-shelled, armed male world is hard to re- enter. And was it really worth the candle? this might well make you see your day job in a new light. WL The Ten-Year Nap ByMegWolitzer (Vintage,7.99) THE BIG READ The Candy Machine: How Cocaine Took Over The World ByTomFeiling(Penguin,9.99) HHHHI PAuL CONNOLLY FICTION Tomas ByJamesPalumbo(Quartet,10) HHHHI BuSINESS Accidental Billionaires: Sex, Money, Betrayal And The Founding Of Facebook ByBenMezrich(WilliamHeinemann,11.99) HHHHI KAtIe PRICes fourth adult fiction novel about sapphire, a beautiful entrepreneur, initially fulfils all your expectations -- or lack of them. Our heroine has just gone through a bitter break-up that was, of course, entirely her husbands fault. sapphires new lover, young personal trainer Jay, is a fit guy in all senses of the word. He gets seen to halfway down page two. But, having found her husband in bed with another woman, sapphire is only after no-strings- attached sex. so its a huge turn-off when Jay proposes -- and makes her business associate Ryan appear infinitely more attractive. so far, so predictable. However, although you always know where the plot is headed, Price (or her ghostwriter) throws in a few surprises. sapphires hen weekend organising company, which doubles as a beauty salon, is suffering from the credit crunch. she is being stalked by an eastern european millionaire. Her widowed mum has a gambling problem. Her best friend is a backstabber, and -- hilariously -- sapphire herself has an aversion to plastic surgery and orange fake tan. these twists somehow conspire to keep you reading until the final page. sapphire, it turns out, is more than just an excuse for Price to have her photo taken with very few clothes on. LAUREN PAXMAN Art imitates life: Katie Price index.html2.html3.html4.html5.html6.html7.html8.html9.html10.html11.html12.html13.html14.html15.html16.html17.html18.html19.html20.html21.html22.html23.html24.html25.html26.html27.html28.html29.html30.html31.html32.html33.html34.html35.html