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

Opium References in Popular Culture, the 2018 List

Posted: December 21st, 2018 | No Comments »

I’ve been spotting opium references in popular culture with interest for a few years now (2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013 & 2012) – just how opium keeps fascinating us…

The (frankly not that good) Limehouse Golem saw George Gissing in an East End opium den which was better than the script. ITV’s dire Maigret in Montmarte saw the Parisian detective confronted with a dead countess who’d been a hefty morphine addict prompting some opium references. Also I didn’t much got for the BBC’s Christie adaptation this year – Ordeal by Innocence – by some tincture of opium made an appearance. I only caught up on it this year, but the Frankenstein Chronicles begins with a chase involving opium smugglers on the River Thames.

Is that opium I smell Monsieur Inspector?

In non-fiction Daniel Smith’s The Ardlamont Mystery: The Real-Life Story Behind the Creation of Sherlock Holmes, as an aside, retold the famous Victorian murder of Elizabeth Chantrelle in 1878 whose fiendish French husband killer her by adding opium to her food.

In fiction opium popped up in the second Babylon Berlin novel from Walter Kutscher (I mentioned the first one last year), The Silent Death and the third, Goldstein. It also briefly in Thomas Mullens’s Lightening Men, the second in his excellent Boggs & Smith novels of the first black cops in Atlanta after WW2. Abir Mukherjee’s Captain Sam Wyndham in his third outing in Smoke and Ashes, set in India in 1921 is still battling a serious addiction to opium that he must keep secret from his superiors in the Calcutta police force. Shanghai opium dens got a fleeting mention in Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach and there’s mention of a Nazi morphine smuggling ring in Chris Petit’s second Schelgel & Morgen wartime Germany series Pale Horse Riding.

Of course I might well have missed some, so let me know….



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