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Cocaine Nights by J. G. Ballard
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Cocaine Nights (1996)

by J.G. Ballard

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,0121013,379 (3.44)53
On the Spanish Riviera, an English discotheque manager is falsely accused of setting fire to a villa which killed its occupants. The man's brother arrives from England to clear his name and in the process uncovers a drugs and pornography ring.
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» See also 53 mentions

English (8)  Catalan (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (10)
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Dove stiamo andando?

Ballard è (stato, ahimè non ci illuminerà più con altri racconti) uno dei pochi scrittori contemporanei ad indagare minuziosamente la follia moderna dietro comportamenti apparentemente normali. Dopo tante conquiste sociali, economiche, industriali, sembra proprio che l'uomo, perduto ogni contatto con la sua dimensione più reale, abbia di nuovo bisogno di "sporcarsi" con i suoi istinti primordiali. Insicurezza, solitudine, trasgressione, domande che cercano risposte a dubbi ed interrogativi che lasciano impantanati su cosa sia morale e cosa no. L'inferno può anche avere le sembianze di un dorato paradiso e, se guardiamo attentamente il nostro quotidiano, ognuno di noi può dirne di conoscerne un volto.
  Magrathea | Dec 30, 2017 |
Charlie Prentice flies in to Gibraltar en route to the Spanish resort of Estrella de Mar where, catering to the various demands of a large ex-pat British community, his brother Frank has until recently been running a lively country club. However, Charlie learns that Frank is now in prison accused of having started a fire in which five people were killed. Worse, while Charlie is anxious to protest his brother's innocence he is appalled to hear that his brother has confessed to the crime, even though most of the evidence against his is largely circumstantial. Charlie starts to look around the resort in a bid to try to understand how Frank might have come to be in this position.
Priding itself on being very different from some of the down-market Costa Brava or Costa del Sol resorts, Estrella de Mar is actually rather a sinister place for all its self-consciously arty pretensions. most strikingly, there doesn't seem to be even one person for whom the reader might feel any empathy.
Ballard takes us under the veneer of respectability covering the ex-pat community and we encounter drug dealings, infidelity and pornography, as well as dubious psychiatrists and ruthless property developers.
The novel is not without its faults - it is occasionally disjointed, and it does sometimes stretch the reader's credibility. However, Ballard maintains the tension excellently - throughout the novel the reader has no idea where the resolution might lie. ( )
1 vote Eyejaybee | Feb 2, 2013 |
He seized me from behind. There was a strange smell on his hands, perhaps some sort of special oil that professional stranglers use.

When travel-writer Charles Prentice is summoned to Spain after his brother Frank is arrested, he assumes that he has been fitted up by the Spanish police, but on arrival he is stunned to discover to find that Frank has been charged with murdering five people, and has pleaded guilty. Frank is the manager of a sports club in Estrella de Mar, a community of northern European ex-pats near Marbella and Charles decides to stay there and try to find out what really happened, since no-one, not even the Spanish police, seems to believe he is guilty.

Charles Prentice is not so much an unreliable narrator, as an unobservant, easily led and obtuse narrator. He veers from wildly over-imaginative (see above) to willfully blind:

'I've watched him at work, Paula. He genuinely wants to help everyone. He's stumbled on this strange way of getting people to make the most of themselves. It's touching to see such simple faith. He's really some kind of saint.'
'He's a psychotic.'
'Not fair. He gets carried away sometimes, but there's no viciousness in the man.'
'Pure psycho.' She turned her back on the mirror and stared critically at me. 'You can't see it.'
.

I first read this book when it came out in paperback and I think I preferred it then, when the dark underbelly of Estrella de Mar came as a surprise, as it was the first of J.G. Ballard's books on that theme that I had read. ( )
1 vote isabelx | Feb 13, 2011 |
* NO Spoilers were used in the writing of this review! *

An unconvincing but engrossing suspense story told in sharp, fast-paced writing.
Ballard's economical and precise language offers a creepy contrast to an outlandish plot: five people are murdered and crime is rampant at a resort community off the Spanish coast, yet the close-knit residents aren't talking and local police seem satisfied with charging an innocent man.

"The loose corners of too many carpets had begun to curl under my feet. The more I nailed down, the less likely was I to trip as I moved from one darkened room to the next," muses the main character as he investigates the murders, a reflection that describes this entire book.

Although the central premise is improbable, it still offers some interesting insights on the connections between society, leisure and crime. My advice is to read this as a parable, and not take the events too literally.

Those sensitive to graphic descriptions of sexuality or depravity: beware! ( )
1 vote PrincessPaulina | Jan 12, 2009 |
Quite a tense thriller, though I thought it was obvious from early on that the solution to the whodunnit element was some kind of collective guilt. The underlying psychology behind Crawford's actions was I thought a bit implausible, especially the rapid change in the community in chapter 22, and I just don't think most people would react this way. This is a pacier read than some of his others that I have tried, though. ( )
  john257hopper | Aug 31, 2008 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ballard, J.G.Authorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lempicka,Tamara deCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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