Gonna start talking about my next book--BOP APOCALYPSE: Jazz, Race, the Beats and Drugs--even though it's not due out until January from DaCapo Press.
My last book, Can’t Find My Way Home: America In The Great Stoned Age, (Simon & Schuster, 2004), told the story of how the use of illicit drugs went from the underground to a mass experience that one in four Americans have come to know, and how that has shaped the cultural landscape of this nation.
This book, BOP APOCALYPSE: Jazz, Race, the Beats and Drugs, tells the story of the underground itself--in essence, how the use of drugs entered the DNA of modern American popular culture in the first place. BOP APOCALYPSE is largely the story of the evolution of jazz and its relationship to the Beats: the first time that drug use coalesced with music and literature, becoming a central element in the creation of an avant-garde American voice and underground cultural sensibility.
The narrative of this book encompasses the birth of jazz in New Orleans; Harry Anslinger and the Federal Bureau of Narcotics; Louis Armstrong; the Chicago of the 1920s; Mezz Mezzrow and the tea pad culture of Harlem in the 1930s; the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937; the Savoy Ballroom; Kansas City and the birth of swing; Billie Holiday; Lester Young; Charlie Parker and the birth of be bop; the initial conjoining of the group of writers in New York that included Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady and William Burroughs; the addiction and fate of a generation of jazzmen and the impact of heroin on a whole community; the policies and popular attitudes surrounding addiction; the creation of the three jazz-imbued drug-induced masterworks (On the Road, Howl, and Naked Lunch) that launched and defined the Beat Generation; and the advent, by 1960, of a new bohemian culture in cities and on college campuses across America.
BOP APOCALYPSE takes the reader back to the time when the templates of modern drug culture, law, and policy, were first established, along with the concomitant racial stereotypes, and shines a light on the very origins of the whole culture war over the use of drugs in America. It’s a fascinating and controversial period that teaches us much about the conflicts and questions that surround drugs today.
I'm happy to say the book contains some of the best work I've ever done.I'll be posting more about it and related subjects in the subsequent months...