“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

The 2012 Opium References Round-up

Posted: December 18th, 2012 | No Comments »

I thought it worth mentioning that opium seems to be all over the place these days in popular cutlure. We started the year with the BBC Two adaptation of Dickens’s The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which of course starts in an opium den. Julia Lovell’s The Opium War was on the shelves as a mass market paperback while opium books popped up elsewhere too – Opium: Reality’s Dark Dream from Thomas Dormandy, Steven Martin’s Opium Fiend: A 21st Century Slave to a Nineteenth Century Addiction, and Jeet Thayil’s excellent Narcopolis being nominated for the Booker short list. Not so much opium on TV except a bit of morphine for a bad leg in BBC America’s Copper, set in New York’s Five Points in the 1860s .

Opium kept popping up in fiction too – Corsican gangsters mixing it up in opium fuelled 1960s Vientiane in Colin Falconer’s Opium – it’s part of a series apparently. Opium again reared its head in nineteenth century Edinburgh as a possible motive for murder (and hinted at Gladstone’s hatred of the drug and trade) in Shadow of the Serpent, the first of David Ashton’s Inspector McLevy detective series. The drug also made an appearance in Anthony Horowitz’s new Sherlock Holmes tale The House of Silk – can you do Victorian Britain now without mentioning opium? Opium as a murder tool, along with lost funds raised in San Francisco for Sun Yat-sen, made a brief appearance in Joe Gores’s fun re-imagining of Sam Spade’s early detecting years and prequel to The Maltese Falcon in Spade and Archer.

Plenty of opium around this year!

Oh dear, the lovely Elizabeth Haverford (Anastasia Griffith) – uptown New York English ice queen of the 1860s – got a taste for the opium…

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